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Muhammad Alamgir
Publishers page
To my Teachers

0.01 Introduction ............................................................ 8

0.02 The Qura>nic Sufi ................................................. 11
Section One
TASAWWUF AND TASHAYYO ..................................... 17
1.01 Abdullah b. Saba> ................................................... 19
1.02 The Growth of Shia Thoughts .............................. 23
1.03 Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles ......................... 29
1.04 Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis .......... 48
1.05 Ba>ti} niya................................................................. 70
1.06 The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf.................. 77
1.07 Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n .................... 108
Section Two
TASAWWUF AND ECLECTICISM ................................ 119
2.01 Tasawwuf as Ih}sa>n .............................................. 121
2.02 Modern Sufis....................................................... 124
2.03 True Knowledge ................................................. 126
2.04 Mu>sa and Khidr .................................................. 128
2.05 Dha>t and S{ifa>t ..................................................... 130
2.06 Martin Lings on Gods Immanence .................... 132
2.07 Islamic Tradition V Traditional Islam ............... 135
2.08 Frithjof Schuon on Gods Immanence ............... 138
2.09 Rene Guenon on Cyclic Birth and Death ........... 140
2.10 Manvantara ......................................................... 142
2.11 No Death After Death ........................................ 147
2.12 Light and Guidance ............................................ 150
2.13 The Abuse of Liberalism .................................... 153
2.14 Syncretism makes an inroad ............................... 154
2.15 Islams Perfection is Absolute............................ 159
2.16 Some usual Skepticism ....................................... 161
2.17 The Maryamiyyah Tari>qah ................................. 165
2.18 To Protest is Bitterness is it? .......................... 168
2.19 The Jihad of Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni....................... 171
2.20 Conclusion .......................................................... 176
Section Three
3.01 Introduction ........................................................ 182
3.02 Understanding Allah ........................................... 184
3.03 Religious Consciousness and Speculative
Consciousness ..................................................... 186
3.04 A Christian Scholar on Speculative
Consciousness ..................................................... 192
3.05 Muslim Scholars on Speculative
Consciousness ..................................................... 203
3.06 Differences between Speculative Unity and
Religious Unity ................................................... 209
3.07 The Effects of Speculative Consciousness on
the Religious Unity of Islam .............................. 222
3.08 Tanazzula>t al-Sitta or The Six Descents ......... 231
3.09 Further Viewpoints of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d........... 237
3.10 Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation ... 242
3.11 Understanding Allah in the Light of
Revelation ........................................................... 253
3.12 Understanding Man in the Light of
Revelation ........................................................... 258
Transliteration Guide

Arabic Trans- Transliteration Example in

Letter/Name cription Sign Arabic/English

Y { hamzah Mumin
} } alif a> QN} Allaah>
[ Y ba> b u Bila>l
\ Y ta> t Tawbah
] Y tha>
th th [Z Thawa>
Th b
_ ji>m j u Jama>l
` Y h}a h} H{ali>m
a Y kha>
kha> kh Khali>
Kh l
c uZc da>l d c Di>n
d uZd dha>
dh l dh d Dhikr
e YZe ra> r Ne Rabbana>
f |Zf za> z f Zindi>q
h " si>n s v" Sala>m
i & shi>
sh n sh & Shukr
j c' s}ad> s} v' S{awm
k cF d}ad> d} we Ramad
l Y t}aw
> t} l Lu>t}
m Y z}aw
> z} Z{uhr
n ayn Umar
Arabic Trans- Transliteration Example in
Letter/Name cription Sign Arabic/English

o ghayn
gh gh Ghari>
Gh b
p Y fa> f Faqi>r
q p qa>f q ec Qa>dir
s p ka>f k Kari>m
u v la>m l Laisa
v mi>m m c Mah}mu>d
w w nu>n n ` Nu>h}
x Y ha> h Z Ibra>hi>m
y yZy waw aw Naw
u> w' S{a>lih}u>n
| Y ya> ay f Zay
i> ' S{a>lih}in>
{ Y ta> marbu>t}ah h {' S{ala>h
0.01 Introduction

On the question of understanding Allah, Section Three

of this work (Tasawwuf and Perennial Philosophy, particularly
Chapter 3.07) will broadly illustrate how speculation is not a
substitute for sure knowledge, and how it tends to corrupt and
complicate views given in Revelation. It will also point out that
in the past the damage caused by such misinterpretations
resulted in the arrival of subsequent prophets, in order that they
renewed Revelation and restored the correct understanding of
Allah Since the arrival of the Qura>n, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has
taken it upon Himself to protect Revelation from any
mutilation. However, that did not stop some Sufis from
indulging in wayward speculations, the results of which were
not dissimilar to those found in other religious and spiritual
communities. Section Three of this work will also present
glimpses of how the meaning of the Qura>nic verses as well as
the sayings of the Prophet (s) were changed by some famous
Muslim Sufis to suit their speculative theories.
Although mysticism is not a substitute for Revelation, it
must be stated that some Sufis were lured to it in their quest to
understand Qura>nic Cosmology. Mysticism is spiritual reason,
but reason nonetheless. It is an attempt to experience the
transcendental using the process of meditation. However, the
experience of the mystic is highly decorated by human reason,
and is expressed in human language with all its limitations.
Therefore, regardless of how intensely the mystic is convinced
of his rationalized experience, it can never be accepted as a
valid interpretation or paraphrase of Revelation. One may add,
if Revelation is used to subject speculation to scrutiny, then
that is a healthy sign. By contrast, if speculation, or its more
glorified form, mysticism, is used to provide special meaning to
Revelation, then that is a recipe for deviation from the truth.

0.01 - Introduction

It is therefore very pertinent in todays context to look

into the history and development of Islamic thoughts in order
to identify the causes that led to the misinterpretation of
Tasawwuf among the Muslims. It must be iterated that this
study has used the term Mysticism at places, even though
among the Muslims it is traditionally known as Islamic
Spirituality or Tasawwuf. The word Sufism is rather vague, and
is suggestive of class distinction and status.
Mysticism, or the more fanciful Islamic Mysticism, is
something of a misnomer. If we look at its origin and spread,
we shall find that in contrast to true Tasawwuf, it portrays all
the efforts that caused Muslims to stray from the proper
understanding of Allah,
Allah albeit in the name of Islam. In order to
uphold the distinction between the two, we must stress
thatTasawwuf is derived from the teachings of the Qura>n and
the Sunnah of the Prophet (s). Its main elements are: 1-Pure
Tawh}id> (unambiguous Oneness of Allah); 2-Preaching of
Religion; 3-Unadulterated practice of Shariah; 4-Service to
Humanity without prejudice; and 5-Jiha>d, i.e. fighting any
attack on Islam, be that in ones own self, or on Muslim
On the other hand, Mysticism, which made an inroad in
the Muslim life by the fourth century Hijri, was mainly non-
Arab in character. It contrasted sharply with the cardinal
principles of Tasawwuf. Its main elements are: 1-Shirk in the
form of Immanence, Incarnation, Union, Personality Cult, and
Transmigration of Soul; 2-Monasticism, i.e. disinterest in social
dynamics; 3-Distortion of religion, i.e. picking and choosing of
doctrines from other sources in the syncretic sense with an
accent on love of God; 4-Disregard to prohibitions, with little
thought of the fear of God; and 5-Hypocrisy and pretensions in
doctrines and practices. It must also be added that those whose
pastime in reality is Mysticism, lay a louder claim to Tasawwuf

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

than anyone else, making it very difficult for ordinary Muslims

to understand the real difference between the two.
Tasawwuf or Ih}sa>n is the very spirit of the Di>n of Islam.
Its very raison detre is to supply proper nourishment to the
roots of Isla>m (i.e. Islamic practices) and Ima>n (i.e. Islamic
doctrines) in the individual and community life of the Muslims.
It is not a spiritual exercise whereby the Sufi has visions of the
Unseen. All it does is develop the Sufi into a better servant of
Allah. It does not, by any stretch of imagination, qualify a Sufi
to issue new doctrines and practices, because the final form of
the doctrines and the practices that go with them, have already
been revealed. The doors of Revelation of the Unseen are now
permanently closed. For that reason, the protagonists of
Tasawwuf often wonder if the institution could be restructured,
and all the unnecessary fanfare could be eliminated.
Conversely, the best way to dislodge Muslims from
clinging to the Rope of Allah (h}ablullah, Qura>n, 3:103) is to
weaken their spiritual conviction of the orthodox beliefs and
practices given in Islam, and divert their loyalty to something
fictitious. This was indeed the agenda of those who had schism
in their mind, in order that they could gain the upper hand by
diffusing the revolutionary zeal of the orthodox Muslims.
In the sections that follow, it is proposed to look into
this phenomenon. In order to do that, this study will examine
the major sources which contributed to the misinterpretation of
Tasawwuf. However, before embarking on the subject of the
introduction of foreign ideas into Muslim thoughts that led to
this predicament, and caused Tasawwuf to degenerate into
Mysticism, it is also important to give a brief picture of the
contents of Islam that found its fruition in Tasawwuf.

0.02 The Qura>nic Sufi

It must be noted that the Muslims were a unified

community until the end of the first half of the caliphate of
Syyeduna Uthma>n (r). Till then no dissenting sect had appeared
among them. That was because the Qura>n has nominated the
Muslims as the Party of Allah,1 who are bound to achieve
success if they hold on to the Rope of Allah, and not get
divided into sects.2 It has exhorted them not to be like the Jews
and Christians who did split up into sects after receiving clear
Signs,3 which resulted in the misinterpretation of the cardinal
doctrines. It has warned the Muslims not to break up the unity
of Islam with sectarian bias,4 and has reminded them that
disputes lead to divisions and loss of power.5
The above formula is resonant with the encouraging
words of an army commander to his legion. Indeed, Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> does proclaim that the enemies of the Muslims



  They are the Party of Allah; Truly
it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity. Su>rah Muja>dilah,
!"# $  &% '(   ) *  +  ,
 - . And hold fast all together, by the Rope which
Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves.
Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n, 3:103.
01'*   32 ( 4 5 & + 64  -7  !"# $ 6 89 :  ;<$  Be not like those who are
divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving
clear Signs. Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n, 3:105.
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religion and break up into sects, you (O Muhammad) have no part in
them in the least. Su>rah Ana>m, 6:159.
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lest you lose heart and your power depart; and be steadfast (against your
enemies). Su>rah Anfa>l, 8:46.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

belong to the Party of the Evil One, who will surely perish.1
The proof that the Muslims are indeed the legion of Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is evidenced by the verse that says: Truly Allah
loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they
were a solid cemented structure.2 So the aim of a complete
Muslim, also styled as a Sufi (Muh}sin), is: to earn Allahs love;
and his assignment is: to fight in the Cause of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>; and the method prescribed to him is: be not slothful nor
unmindful of this task, and remain equipped with the best
weapons physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual.3
Effectively, a Muslim hands over his life to Allah,4 just as a
soldier joining the army hands over his life to his commander. It
is then mandatory for him to join hands with other Muslims in
building and maintaining an environment of solidarity the
very antithesis of sectarianism. And this community
responsibility is singularly recommended by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> when He mentions it as the distinguishing characteristic of
the Companions (r) under the leadership of the Prophet (s).5

  #L M
     K ' "I

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  They are the Party of the Evil
One. Truly it is the Party of the Evil One that will perish. Su>rah
Muja>dilah, 58:19.
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 8    Su>rah S{aff, 61:4.
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make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds
of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your
enemies. Su>rah Anfa>l, 8:60.
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Allah has purchased of the Believers their persons and their goods; for
theirs (in return) is the Garden (of Paradise); they fight in His Cause, and
slay and are slain. Su>rah Taubah, 9:111.
 A 0' + 3^   G G <  _. 3^ "5?   &4 6 89   ]  L"G 5N "
 T4 Muh}ammad is the Messenger
of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against the Unbelievers,
(but) compassionate amongst each other. Su>rah Fath}, 48:29.

0.02 - The Qura>nic Sufi

Such a prescription as outlined above, had never been

given to mankind before. To their credit, Muslims did gather
under the leadership of the Prophet (s) as one solid body.
However, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> who is fully aware of the
weaknesses of human nature, has added a constant refrain in the
entire Book that worship of anyone other than Himself is a
shirk which He will never forgive. The particular human
weakness which led most of mankind to shirk throughout its
history was excessive adulation of their spiritual leaders. With
many of them, the goal of life changed from the worship of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> to the worship of the divinely inspired
man. Noteworthy among them were the cases of Jesus and
Krishna. And it was the same with La>t and Hubal in the
antiquity. The central teaching of these people soon
metamorphosed into the doctrine of Incarnation, i.e. God taking
human form; or the doctrine of Immanence, i.e. the existence of
God is inseparable from the existence of the Creation; or the
doctrine of Avatar, i.e. Gods recurring appearance in the
world; and the like.
Therefore, in order to save the Muslims from such
pitfalls, another first in the Qura>n is the reminder that the
Prophet (s), their leader, is but a man and a slave of Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. In the testification of Faith or Shaha>dah, a
Muslim mentions him first as a man, before he testifies that he
(s) is a Prophet.1 Indeed, the Qura>n instructs the Prophet (s):
Say, I am but a man like yourselves.2 This reminder is further
emphasized when the Qura>n says: Muhammad is no more than
a Messenger; many were the messengers that passed away
before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on
your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm

 LG  a 5 * . `5"
 4  5 A ?  I testify that Muhammad (s) is Allahs servant and
His Messenger.
 <  b 14 #N I
 + ;  "; ) ! Su>rah Kahf, 18:110.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly
reward those who (serve him) with gratitude.1
And so it happened. When the Prophet (s) actually
passed away, many Companions including Syyeduna Umar (r)
could not believe that such a man could ever die. It was then
left to the wit and wisdom of the venerable Syyeduna Abu Bakr
(r) who finally managed to calm them down. Only when he
recited the above verse, that they could recall having heard it
before, but had forgotten all about it.
It was to the credit of Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) and
Syyeduna Umar (r), indeed the other elders as well, that they
instilled in the hearts of the early Muslims the firm belief that
sectarianism was the opposite of Islam, and that it was the
deadly poison that would destroy the collective life of Muslims.
With a unity and solidarity of that magnitude, the
Muslims devoted themselves to work for the Cause of Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, namely, the reform and salvation of mankind. In
order that this can be achieved, great emphasis is placed on
promoting what is good and wholesome, and on suppressing
what is evil and ugly.2 On the contrary, if Muslims are divided
into sects and groups, unity amongst them will evaporate. In
such a state, neither will they have the zeal to reform others,
nor the respite (time) they need to devote to such an
assignment. The simple fact of life is, that those who fight with
each other, themselves need reforms.
A Sufi, worthy of the name, cannot but be fully aware of
this perennial responsibility as a Muslim.

 ' *S . _ . H
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best of Peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding
what is wrong, and believing in Allah. Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n, 3:110.

0.02 - The Qura>nic Sufi

However, it must be stressed here that this work is not a

treatise on Tasawwuf. Anything said about the real character of
Tasawwuf is purely contextual, not an academic exposition. By
the same token, the mention of past and present personalities
whose personal stance may have had a bearing on Tasawwuf, is
not to malign them by any means. The endeavour here is
nothing other than to examine the sayings and conclusions of
sages and scholars in the light of the Quran and authentic
Ahadith, in order to assist the aspiring Sufi to make a well-
educated choice.
Quite pertinently therefore, the subsequent pages are
devoted in bringing to light the fact that ignorance has been the
main reason that caused most Muslims to fall into the trap of
deviant thoughts, particularly the highly alluring and decorative
non-Qura>nic Tasawwuf. Therefore, the aim of this work is to
salvage those who may have made a wrong choice unwittingly,
as well as to equip those who are looking for a genuine
Qura>nic Tasawwuf with valid notions about it.
Tasawwuf is not mysticism. Therefore, the interested
reader may be invited to ponder on the differences between the
two. To be fair, mysticism could be called a philosophical effort
to make sense of the world-view given by religion or any
system of thought that has the looks of a religion. In truth, it is
mental in nature. Its worries are over once the mind has solved
the jigsaw puzzle, or is satisfied with the given construction.
Tasawwuf on the other hand is spirituality. It is a
response of the heart in the form of actions, not just thoughts.
It is a participation of the soul in the process of becoming what
has been determined for it. More than anything else it is a
conscious effort not to upset the moral order that is taking the
created world to its destination. Any deviation from this focus
leads to the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of
Tasawwuf. And that is the subject of this study.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

The rest of this work explains the three phenomena that

contributed most to the misinterpretation of Tasawwuf.
Section One, Tasawwuf 1 and Tashayyo,2 describes in
some details how the adherents of Tashayyo have caused
Tasawwuf to be misinterpreted in order to suit their sectarian
designs within the framework of Islam.
Section Two, Tasawwuf and Eclecticism,3 gives a
glimpse of the effects that eclecticism or syncretism had on
some sections of the Sufis, which resulted in the
misinterpretation of Tasawwuf.
Section Three, Tasawwuf and Perennial Philosophy,4
shows how Speculation, because of human limitations, cannot
grasp the reality of Allahs transcendence, and ends up not just
in the misinterpretation of Tasawwuf, it has a hand in its
misrepresentation as well.

Tas}awwuf ( ) the doctrines and practices of the Sufi.
Tashayyo ( )the doctrines and practices of the Shia.
Eclecticism is the principle or practice of choosing or involving objects,
ideas and beliefs from many different sources. The other related word in
this context is Syncretism,
Syncretism meaning, the reconciliation or fusion of
different systems or beliefs, or the attempt at such fusion.
Philosophia Perennis is the central concept of the Traditionalist
School formalized in the writings of Ren Gunon, Frithjof Schuon and
Ananda Coomaraswamy. The term philosophia perennis was first used in
the 16th century by Agostino Steuco in his book entitled De perenni
philosophia libri X (1540), in which scholastic philosophy is seen as the
Christian pinnacle of wisdom to which all other philosophical currents in
one way or another point. The idea was later taken up by the German
mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who used it to
designate the common, eternal philosophy that underlies all religions,
and in particular the mystical streams within them. The term was
popularized in more recent times by Aldous Huxley in his 1945 book:
The Perennial Philosophy. The Hindu revivalist notion of Sanatana
Dharma has been taken as a translation of philosophia perennis.

Section One



In Section One, a great deal of historical details have

been taken from Ta>ri>kh-e-Tasawwuf (History of Tasawwuf),
written in Urdu by Prof. Yusuf Salim Chishti, published by
Darul Kita>b, Lahore, June 2009.

1.01 Abdullah b. Saba>

The humiliation suffered by the Jews at the hands of the

early Muslims had never been forgotten. Consequently, a
Yemeni Jew named Abdullah b. Saba> entered the fold of Islam
during the second half of Syyeduna Uthma>n (r)s caliphate in
order that he could use deception to weaken the Muslims, and
to corrupt their teachings. To adopt hypocrisy was nothing new
to the Jews. Others too had done that in the presence of the
Prophet (s). Abdullah b. Ubayy, for example, never gave up on
his mischief, but he failed to introduce any false ideas in the
teachings of Islam. There is a perception that Abdullah b. Saba>
is a legendary figure. However, the following accounts point
out clearly that he was indeed a historical figure, and not just a
Mahdi Tauhidipur,
Tauhidipur a Shia by faith, wrote a preface on
Ja>mis Nafah}at> ul Uns, on page 29 of which he affirmed that the
first person who ascribed divinity to Syyeduna Ali (r) was
Abdullah b. Saba>, who lived during the time of the Prophet (s).
Klien translation of The Clarifications of the
Dr Kliens
Principles of Religion1 has this on page 817: When Abdullah b.
Saba> met Syyeduna Ali (r), he addressed him as you are You,2
meaning you are God. Since this was an utter blasphemy,
Syyeduna Ali (r) exiled him. However, the followers of
Abdullah b. Saba> took it to their heart, and a doctrine evolved:
that Syyeduna Ali (r) will return to this world; that a portion of
divinity permeated in him; and that this divinity continued to
reincarnate in his successors one by one.
Sir William Muir (1819-1905) wrote in page 216 of his
book Al-Khila>fah: In 652 Hijri, Ibn A<mir was the governor of

Al-iba>na an usu>lid-diya>na of Abul Hasan al-Ashari.


anta Anta.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Basra. Abdullah b. Saba>, who was also known as Ibn Sawda,

came to Basra and became a Muslim. However, before long his
rebellious designs against the government became evident. So
he was first exiled from Basra to Kufa, then to Damascus.
Finally, he found a safe haven in Egypt. From there he started
to publish astounding doctrines which had no basis in Islam.
His clarion call included:
like Jesus, the Prophet (s) will return to this world for a
second time;
as for now, Ali (r) is his plenipotentiary (wasi>) and
inheritor and successor; and
Uthma>n (r) is a usurper; so there will be no truth and
justice if his rule is not brought down.
It did not take long for these ideas to gain popularity in
Professor R.A. Nicholson (1868-1945) wrote in page
215 of his Literary History of the Arabs: Abdullah b. Saba>
(actually pronounced as Saba> )came from S{ana> of Yemen.
He was a Jew. He accepted Islam during the reign of Syyeduna
Uthma>n (r), and apparently became a roaming missionary.
According to Tabari he visited various cities, where his main
intention was to mislead Muslims. Eventually he settled down
in Egypt. There he started lecturing on the doctrine of Return.
He said: It belies the truth when we find that the Muslims
believe in the return of Jesus, but do not believe in the return of
the Prophet (s), whereas Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has mentioned in
the Qura>n that he will return to the world again.1 He said

DV & 4 _ h TD#  i #S  
 '  . j
 # @ e9  Verily He Who ordained the Qura>n for
you, will bring you back to the Place of Return. Su>rah Qas}as}, 28:85.
This verse was revealed to assure the Prophet (s) that he would return to
Makka after the persecution of the Quraysh forced him to emigrate to

1.01 - Abdullah b. Saba>

further, that one thousand Prophets left behind their inheritors,

and Ali (r) was the wasi> or inheritor of the Prophet (s). Just as
the Prophet (s) was the Seal of the Prophets, so was Ali (r) the
Seal of the Inheritors. He declared that Syyeduna Uthma>n (r)
was a usurper. He spread a network of conspiracy throughout
the Muslim land, and started secret exchange of letters with
those who were against Syyeduna Uthma>n (r).
Dr. J.N. Holster wrote in page 15 of his book The Shias
of India: Abdullah ibn Saba> was the first to start a
propaganda in favour of Syyeduna Ali (r). He was a Jew from
S{ana>. He accepted Islam during the rule of Syyeduna Uthma>n
(r). He visited many cities to preach his idea that the Prophet
(s) will return to the world for a second time, that Syyeduna Ali
(r) was his wasi>, and that the divinity that was in the Prophet
(s) was transferred to Syyeduna Ali (r). He also accused the
third Caliph (Uthma>n) as a usurper. As a result, those who did
not like Syyeduna Uthma>n (r), rallied around his call.
Professor P.K. Hitti wrote in page 248, vol 4, of his
book History of the Arabs, published in London in 1949:
Abdullah ibn Saba> was an enigma. He became a Muslim
during the caliphate of Syyeduna Uthma>n (r). He made
extraordinary exaggerations in showing reverence to Syyeduna
Ali (r), which was very upsetting for the latter. He was the
founder of the gha>li (extremist, fanatical) variety of the Shia
Professor Abbas Iqbal of Darul-Muallemi>n-e-A<li,
Tehran, wrote in page 287 of his book The Naubakhti Family:
Saba>i>ya was the first among the gha>li Shia sects. These
people were the followers of Abdullah ibn Saba>>, who was the
first to ridicule Abu Bakr (r), Umar (r) and Uthma>n (r). They
believed in the immortality of Syyeduna Ali (r), as well as his
return and divinity. Syyeduna Ali (r) killed him. In later
times, the remainder of these people came to be known as the
Nas}i>riya sect of the gha>li Shias.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Imam Muhammad b. Abdul Karim Shahrastani (d. 1188)

said in his famous book Al-Milal wan-Nihal: Saba>i>ya was one
of these (Shia) sects. They were the followers of Abdullah b.
Saba>>, who addressed Syyeduna Ali (r) as you are You, which
meant you are God. Abdullah b. Saba>> was the first to
propound that the ima>mah of Syyeduna Ali (r) was essential.
All the other extremist Shia sects were based on the teachings
of this fallen man. In his opinion: 1- Syyeduna Ali (r) was not
murdered. 2- A portion of divinity was present in his essence.
No wonder, rad (thunder) was his voice; and burq (lightning)
was his whip.
From the above accounts, it should be clear that
Abdullah b. Saba>> was the first to sow the seed of dissension
among the Muslims. In this he achieved a two-fold result he
introduced polytheistic doctrines from sources foreign to Islam;
and by the same token, he destroyed the unity and uniformity
of the Muslims. Although Syyeduna Ali (r) got him killed
eventually, his teachings and the dissension he created were
never fully uprooted. In fact, his followers gained wider
popularity in Iran, because like the Jews, the Iranians too had a
deep-seated hatred for the Arabs. Moreover, the Iranians were
not altogether unfamiliar with the doctrines of Abdullah b.
Saba> specially because, integral to their previous religion
(Zoroastrianism) were the doctrines of incarnation and

1.02 The Growth of Shia Thoughts

Syyeduna Jafar as}-S{ad> iq (r), known as the sixth Imam

of the Shia sect died in 765. His followers were divided into
two groups. One group accepted Syyeduna Mu>sa Ka>z}im (r)
(742-799), his youngest son, as his successor. This group came
to be known as the Ithna> Ashari (the Twelver) or the Ra>fid}i
(plural Rawa>fid}) Shias. The other group accepted Syyeduna
Isma>i>l (r), his eldest son, as his successor. This group became
known as the Isma>i>li Shias. The present discussion is more
concerned with a short history of this later group.
Those who assumed leadership of the Isma>i>li Shias,
soon converted the group into a destructive movement. As a
result, its doctrines and practices deviated alarmingly from the
mainline Shia standpoints. In the history of Islam, some of its
branches have been known as Mula>hi} da, Ba>ti} niya, Tali>miya
and Qara>mit}a. Generally speaking, all these Isma>i>li Shias were
responsible for introducing foreign ideas into Islamic
Tasawwuf. They were the ones who, from the very beginning,
had adopted the Gha>li (extremist) views presented by Abdullah
b. Saba>; namely, the doctrines of the divinity and return of
Syyeduna Ali (r), as well as incarnation and immanence.
Clearly, these doctrines were against the teachings of
the Qura>n. It is because of this, that Stanley Lane-
Lane-Poole once
wrote: From the point of view of its essence, the religion of
the Fa>t}imides of Egypt was not Mohammedanism.
In page 12 of A Short History of the Fatimid Caliphate,
De Lacy OLeary
OLeary (1872-1957) wrote: All the characteristics of
the Gha>li Shias, i.e. ta>wi>l or allegorical interpretation, physical
manifestation, immanence, and transmigration of soul, were
evident in the Isma>i>lis from the very beginning.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Professor E.G. Brown (1862-1926) wrote in his A

Literary History of Persia, vol 1, page 311: The doctrines
which are common among the Gha>li Shias are:
1. Tashbi>h, i.e. Gods appearance in human form;
2. Change in Gods plans;
3. Return of the Ima>m; and
4. Transmigration of Soul, i.e. the merging of the soul of
one Ima>m into another, specially into his successor.
In describing this movement further, he wrote: Al-
Muqanna (d. 785) came out during the reign of Caliph Mahdi.
Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282) wrote that his actual name was At}a.>
He acquired expertise in magical practices, and claimed to be
an incarnation of Allah. He taught his disciples that: In the
beginning, Allah incarnated in Adam, and that was the reason
why the angels prostrated before him. Likewise, Allah
continued to incarnate in all the Prophets, till He incarnated in
Abu Muslim Khurasa>ni (700-755), after whose death He
incarnated in me.1 He came to be known as Al-Muqanna
because he was ugly looking, blind, short in height, and slightly
built. He used a golden veil to hide his face. He was killed in
Ba>bak Khurrami (d. 837) came out during the reign of
Caliph Mamun (786-833). He too claimed divinity. According
to Tabari (838-922), he unleashed a reign of terror in Iran for
twenty years, and was eventually killed in 837 by Afshi>n, the
Abbaside General. Under the influence of Al-Muqanna and
Ba>bak, thousands of Muslims were led astray from the true path
of Islam. As well as that, according to Masu> Masudi
>di (896-956),
Ba>bak killed around half a million Muslims during that period
of great sedition (fitnah). These two prepared the ground for
the evil activities of Abdullah b. Maymu>n al-Qadda>h} (d. 825).
This claim gives a fair idea of the Iranian mentality.

1.02 - The Growth of Shia Thoughts

Hitti and Brown have written that al-Qadda>h} deserves

the crown for shaping both the political organization and the
religious doctrines of the Isma>i>li Shias. He was an inhabitant
of Ahwaz. After spending some time in Basra, he moved his
center to Syria. From there he sent his missionaries to all parts
of the Muslim world in order to preach the religion of the
H{amda>n Qarmat} b. al-Ashath (d. 933) was the chief
protagonist of al-Qadda>h.} He was an Iraqi peasant. He was
known as Qarmat} because his legs were very short. He
transformed the Isma>i>li religion into a secret (i.e. Ba>ti} ni>)
movement. Hence, this Isma>i>li secret sect came to be known as
Qara>mit}a. Under the leadership of Abu Sai>d al-Janna>bi, the
Qara>mit}a formed an independent state. Then in 930, his son
Abu T}ah> ir al-Janna>bi (906-944) raided Makka, and carried off
the Black Stone from the Kaba. The stories of these atrocities
are too many and too long. In short, according to Brown,
Brown the
Qara>mit}a terrorized the Muslims of the Abbaside Sultanate for
over a century.
The Doctrines of al- al-Qadda>h:} It was al-Qadda>h} who
named his movement after Syyeduna Isma>i>l (r), the seventh
Imam of the Shias. Along the way the movement acquired other
names, like, Sabi>, Ba>ti} ni>, Tali>mi>, Fa>ti} mi>, Qarmat}i,> and
H{ashi>shi>. However, the historians refer to the entire movement
as the Mula>hi} da. Al-Qadda>h} s beliefs could be summarized in
the following words:
1. Seven is the holiest number. Next is twelve. For
example: seven planets, and twelve signs of the zodiac;
seven days of the week, and twelve months of the year.
2. Seven principles: God, Universal Intellect, Universal
Soul, Man, Matter, Time and Space.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

3. Seven Law-givers: A<dam, Nu>h}, Ibra>hi>m, Mu>sa>, I<sa>,

Muh}ammad (s), and (the last and perfect) Muh}ammad b.
Isma>i>l b. Jafar.
4. Every Prophet is a Na>ti} q, i.e. he is the Speaker. He is
aided by a Helper who is a S{am > it, i.e. he is the one who
remains Silent. So, A<dam was assisted with Shi>th, Nu>h}
with Sa>m, Ibra>hi>m with Isma>i>l, Mu>sa> with Haru>n, I<sa>
with But}ras (Peter), Muh}ammad (s) with Ali>, and
Muh}ammad b. Isma>i>l with Al-Qadda>h.}
5. Missionaries (Callers, daa)> were trained by Al-Qadda>h}
to preach his doctrines. These missionaries would go to
a city and there they would adopt professions like
business, medical practice etc. First of all, they would
create an impression of themselves in the minds of the
people as pious, holy or saintly persons. When people
were convinced of their eminence, they would then put
philosophical riddles to them, in order to create doubts,
evil suggestions, and unease. For example:
Why did Allah create the world in six days, when
He could create everything in a moment?
What is the real meaning of S{ira>t-} al-Mustaqi>m (The
Straight Path)?
What is the reality of the punishment in Hell? How
would the skin of the dwellers of Hell be changed?
What is the reality of Ramy al-Jima>r (throwing
pebbles at Mina) during Hajj?
The gates of Hell are seven. The gates of Paradise
are eight. Why?
Why seven heavens? Why seven verses of Sura al-

1.02 - The Growth of Shia Thoughts

Why cant we see the Kira>man Ka>tibi>n (noble

angels who record our deeds)?
Why are there eight bearers of the Throne of Allah
(Qura>n, 69:17)?
What is the truth about Ibli>s (Satan)?
What do Ya>ju>j and Ma>ju>j, and Ha>ru>t and Ma>ru>t
actually mean?
Man alone in the animal world walks on two legs.
Why do we have ten fingers?
We have three phalanx bones in four of the fingers,
but only two in the thumb. Why?
There are seven outlets in the face alone, whereas
the rest of the body has only two. Why?
These would be the initial questions from the Caller to
the listener, in order to shake him up. He would then be fed
with more philosophical doubts and scepticism. When he would
thus be completely confused, he would be reminded that his
Ulama had no answer to these questions. The listener would
then be invited to accept the religion of the missionary, with
the assurance that he would be taught the truth about Islam. On
his part, the listener would have to allocate a fixed portion of
his income as material contribution to the movement, and
would have to take a vow not to divulge anything from what he
would be taught.
If the listener agreed to these conditions, then he would
be initiated in the first level of this secret society. Al-Qadda>h}
had designed nine levels. The seeker of Truth who reached the
last level would effectively become a stranger to Islam. Al- Al-
Maqrizi>zi (1364-1442) and al-al-Nuwayri
Nuwayri (d. 1333) have written
that when the seeker reached the last level, the doors of Iba>ha} t

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

al-Mut}laqa ( absolute permission)1 would be opened to

him. He would then be eased into the philosophy of the
Manichaeans2 and the Magians.3 As a result, Brown adds, Islam
would lose its meaning to the seeker, who would thus be led to
a philosophical position in which he would combine (i.e.
syncretize) the thoughts and doctrines of different religions.
Al-Qadda>h} and Qarmat} had instructed their followers
(whom they had given the title of Callers), to first find out the
beliefs of the listener, and then pretend to have the same
beliefs, so as not to drive him away. Once his trust in the Caller
became stronger, the next step would be to make him shaky
about his beliefs. This strategy worked well for the Callers, and
brought them many success.

I.e. nothing would be forbidden (h}ara>m) to them any more, everything
would be h}ala>l.
Religion of Ma>ni (216-276).
Maju>si> or the religion of Zartasht (Zoroaster, Zarathustra).

1.03 Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

By the time the Qara>mit}a started their missionary

activities, Tasawwuf along with many of its T{ari>qas1 had
already been established among the Muslims. Therefore, in
order to gain popularity, the Qara>mit}a would join these circles
pretending to be Sufis. In the garb of Tasawwuf, they led the
Sufis astray by introducing doctrines from sources other than
Islam. In this way, the foundation of non-Islamic Tasawwuf
was laid in Iran. In time, it spread to other parts of the Muslim
world until it became impossible to distinguish between non-
Islamic and Islamic Tasawwuf. This was possible because in
every age and in every country the ignorant masses had little
concern with the reality of Islam. To wit, the masses have
always, rather thoughtlessly, accorded to ghayrullah (other-
than-Allah) the role of helper, remover of difficulties, and one
who grants wishes. This has not changed much, even today.
It is an irony that the Iranians had never accepted Islam
wholeheartedly. The ideas of incarnation, immanence, and the
like, were not unfamiliar to them. Hence, when these ideas were
clothed in Islam and presented to them, they received them
quite happily. A. E. Kraymsky wrote the following in The
Islamic Quarterly, vol 6, issue no. 3 and 4, July and October
1961, p. 105:
The Sufis used to think that they were the true
custodians of Sunnah. However, in Iran this claim was made by
people whose doctrines were so vastly different from Islam that
if the Prophet (s) had seen them, he would have declared them
as the people of Hell. It must be noted here that when Abdullah
b. Maymu>n al-Qadda>h} started reforming and reorganizing the
Isma>i>li sect, he gave strict instructions to callers who preached
secretly that when they met Muslims they should pose as Sufis
Sufi circles expounding spiritual Paths or Ways.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

and allay all doubts from their minds about their genuineness.
The fact remains that in this way these Isma>i>lis had immense
success in popularizing Tasawwuf in Iran and other parts of the
Muslim world. In return for their services, they introduced in
Tasawwuf certain un-Islamic tendencies and doctrines which
started to surface in the fourth century Hijri.
He wrote further in the footnote of page 87 of the same
issue: At the beginning of the fifteenth century AD, Isma>i>li
callers came to India. They adopted the ways of the Sufis, and
informed the Hindus that Syyeduna Ali (r) was the tenth
incarnation of Vishnu. Under the stewardship of Pi>r Sadruddin,
this tactic brought many Hindus into their fold.

The Bekta>shi
hi Sufi Order
The founder of this Sufi order was Ha>ji Bekta>sh. In
1281, he moved from Khorasan (the center of Isma>i>li mission)
to Anatolia, where he died in 1338. His order gained popularity
in Turkey. In pp. 132-133 of The Bekta>shi Dervish Order, Dr. J.
K. Birge has given its doctrines in the following words:
Allah is the only Reality.
Both Muhammad (s) and Ali (r) are special
manifestations of Allah.
Allah, Muhammad (s) and Ali (r) are identical with each
In reality Muhammad (s) and Ali (r) are two names for
the same person.
The sort of relationship the Sufis of this order had with
Islam is plain and clear from these doctrines. The belief these
Sufis had about Syyeduna Ali (r) are recorded in Khut}batul
Baya>n, the most reliable book of this order. The book

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

(published in London in 1937) claims that Syyeduna Ali (r) had

said (pp. 142-143):
1. With me are the Keys of the Unseen. No one other than
Muhammad (s) knows them. Moreover, Azra>il (the
angel of death) is subservient to me.
2. I am the Preserved Tablet, I am the evidence of Allah, I
am the evidence of the Prophets.
3. I am the allocator of heaven and hell, I am the heart of
Allah, I am the first Noah.
4. I am Dhul Qarnayn, I am the world of what is and what
has been, I am the cloud, I am the rain, I hold aloft the

The Nu>
>rbakhshi Sufi Order
This sufi order has been described in pp. 283-287 of
Kashmir under the Sultans by Prof. Muhibbul Hasan:
The founder of the Nu>rbakhshi order was Syyed
Muhammad b. Abdullah. He was born in Kohistan in 1393. In
his youth he took a pledge of allegiance (bayah) with Khwaja
Ish}aq Khat}la>ni who was the spiritual successor of the great Sufi
master Syyed Ali H{amada>ni. Syyed Muhammad was given the
title of Nu>rbakhsh by his master. Nu>rbakhsh claimed that he
had received spiritual benediction from Imam Jafar S}a>diq (r),
whose influence featured prominently in his teachings. Sufis of
this order show their disrespect for the first three Caliphs.
Nu>rbakhsh also claimed to be the awaited Mahdi. Thats why
even the Shias did not like him.
This Sufi order was made popular in Kashmir by Pi>r
Shamsuddin. Born in Sholghan (Iran), first he journeyed to
Multan, then in 1502 to Kashmir. From there he moved to
Baltistan to preach Nu>rbakhshi doctrines. In the end he

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

returned to Kashmir, and converted the ruling family of the

Chak dynasty to Shia ways.
These episodes point to the fact that the Qara>mit}a
preached their views in the garb of Tasawwuf, and introduced
doctrines that were opposed to the teachings of the Qura>n. It
has been mentioned before that wherever they went, they
adopted the practices that were popular in that place. Hence,
when their preachers went to India, they picked up the ways of
the Hindu sages, gurus and spiritual masters. They began
presenting Syyeduna Ali (r) as the tenth avatar of Vishnu, and
in order to endear themselves to the local people, they added
the honorific title of Pi>r to their names.
Thus the Pi>rs preached their doctrines under the guise of
Tasawwuf Pi>r Sadruddin in Gujrat and Pi>r Shamsuddin
Sabzwa>ri in Multan. In his book Shias of India, Dr. J.N. Holster
has testified to this phenomenon in details. He wrote:
Although there are some basic differences between the
Shias and the Sufis, the Isma>i>li Shias managed to bring them
down to a minimum. Outwardly they pretended to be Sufis. (p.
In 1496, during the rule of Fateh Shah, the Isma>i>li
caller Shamsuddin came back to Kashmir. With him returned
the people of the Chak tribe, who were exiled earlier because of
spreading mischief in the land. In the beginning these people
were Sun worshippers, and aligned themselves with the
Illuminationist sect which was founded in Iran. Fateh Shah
allowed Shamsuddin to preach his doctrines that resulted in the
Chak tribes conversion to the Nu>rbakhshi Sufi order. (p. 146).
Nu>rbakhshi doctrines are a combination of Unbelief
(kufr) and Atheism (ilh}ad> ) neither they emanate from the
Sunnis, nor from the Shias. The Nu>rbakhshis curse the first
three Caliphs, so they are not Sunnis; and they believe that

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

Nu>rbakhsh was the awaited Mahdi, so they are not Shias. (p.
This was the mode of operation of the Qara>mit}a adopt
any means including the guise of a Sufi to corrupt the Muslims
with ilh}ad> and kufr. Thus, they were greatly successful in
introducing non-Islamic doctrines in the hearts of Muslims. Dr.
J.N. Holster writes further:
A caravan of Isma>i>li syyeds came to Sabzwa>r from
Cairo. It was from here that Pi>r Shamsuddin Sabzwa>ri (not the
same Shamsuddin who belonged to the Nu>rbakhshi sect) went
to Multan. Disguising as a Sufi he preached the Isma>i>li
doctrines. Some people wrongly think that he was Shams
Tabriz, the spiritual master of Jalaluddin Ru>mi. A third Pi>r
Shamsuddin of the Niza>riya sect of the Isma>i>lis also went to
Kashmir. He used to mingle with the local Hindus in their
religious festivals. He took part in the Garbha1 dance with them
during Durga festivals. He wrote 28 Garbha songs. Many
Hindus were impressed with him, and became the devotees of
Ima>m-uz-Zama>n Qa>sim Sha>h Niza>ri. (p. 353).
From Kashmir, Pi>r Shamsuddin went to Uch, 80 miles
from Multan. Legend has it that the son of a rich man died, and
he brought him back to life. As a result, his popularity soared
high. His disciples are called Shamsis. His shrine is in Uch. (p.
Pi>r Sadruddin was also a caller of the Niza>riya sect of
the Isma>i>lis. He started his mission in India in 1430. In
accordance with the Qara>mit}a principles of preaching, he
changed his name to Sahadev, and converted the Lohana
Rajputs of Punjab to his religion. He announced that the tenth
avatar of Vishnu has already appeared in the form of Ali (r). His

In Sanskrit Garbha means womb. It is a dance to honour Durga, the
feminine form of divinity during Durga worship.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

followers used to sing Bhajans1 in the Sufi style in praise of

Muhammad (s) and Ali (r). He wrote a book called the Tenth
Avatar. Even today this book is treated by the Isma>i>li Niza>riya
Khojas as a holy book, just as the Qura>n is held as a holy book
by the Muslims. His grave is located in Taranda near Uch, and
is visited by his devotees every year during the annual Urs.2
(pp. 356-357).
It can be seen from the foregoing how the Qara>mit}a
introduced alien doctrines among the Muslims, as a result of
which a non-Islamic Tasawwuf came into existence. These new
doctrines included Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement,
Immanence, Divinity of Ali (r), Transmigration of Soul, Return,
Union, Uncreated Matter and the like. To the unsuspecting
common man, what the Qara>mit}a presented, became real
So, on the one hand, Muslims got used to non-Islamic
Tasawwuf, while on the other hand, these Shia sects cleverly
introduced their doctrines in the books written by Muslim
Sufis. Abdul Wahhab Shara>ni has written in his Al-Yawa>qi>t
The Ba>ti} niya, Mula>hi} da and Zana>diqa scholars began
with interpolating their thoughts first in the works of Imam
Ahmad b. Hanbal, then in the works of Imam Ghaza>li. They
wrote a book with details of their doctrines, and put my name
down as the author during my own life. It remained in
circulation for three years even after vigorous protestations by
This episode illustrates the audacity, deception and
belligerence of this sect. They fabricated imaginary stories and
presented them unceasingly until the unsuspecting Muslims

Devotional songs of the Hindus specially dedicated to Krishna.
Annual gathering of devotees at the shrine of a Pi>r.

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

placed their trust in these holy men. For example, the Bekta>shi
order popularized a story that when the Prophet (s) was injured
in the Battle of Uhud, and blood was flowing from his body,
Archangel Gabriel came to him and asked him to use Na>d-e-
Ali>1 to make dua, i.e. to pray to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> by
invoking the name of Ali (r). When he did so, Ali came to his
rescue, killed the Unbelievers and saved the Muslims from
getting killed. (See The Bekta>shi Order of Dervishes by Dr.
John Kingsley Birge,
Birge Hartford, USA, 1937, p. 138).
Men of knowledge are well aware of the fact that the
Prophet (s) did not make any such dua during the battle.
Moreover, during the battle, from start to finish, Syyeduna Ali
(r) was physically present with the Prophet (s), so how could
there be a need to call him who never left his side? Despite
that, this fictitious narrative managed to creep into many works
of the Ahle-Sunnah, because fanaticism in beliefs makes one
blind to research and impels one to throw caution to the wind.
So it happened with Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah Chishti.
Chishti He wrote
in his Gems of the Unseen, Lucknow, 1887, p. 641: During the
Battle of Tabuk, the Muslim army was in a tight squeeze when
Archangel Gabriel came to the Prophet (s) and said to him: O
Muhammad, call Ali. He is the one who reveals secrets. You
will find him as a helper in your distress. All your worries and
grief will soon vanish by virtue of your prophethood and Alis
sainthood. [How could we blame the reader of this dua who is
led to think that Ali was superior to Muhammad (s)?].
May Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> forgive the above writer for
his blunder. In documenting this episode in his book he did not
even think that no fighting took place in the Tabuk expedition.
That is why historians do not consider this expedition as a
Ghazwa2 per se. In fact, Syed Muzaffar Ali Shah Chishtis
To call Syyeduna Ali (r) for help.
An actual battle in which the Prophet (s) participated, is termed as a

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

narrative is the same as what the Sufis of Bekta>shi order have

recorded in their books in connection with the Battle of Uhud.
He simply copied it from there, but no one knows how he
changed Uhud to Tabuk.
The reason for quoting these narratives is to show that
the doctrines evolved by the Qara>mit}a contradicted the
teachings of the Qura>n, which says: If Allah does touch you
with hurt, there is none can remove it but He.1 Since, the
Qara>mit}a could not teach their doctrines openly, they adopted
the manners, speech, attire and all the visible traits of the Sufis.
They showed reverence to the highly esteemed and holy
personalities of the Muslims, and deceptively used their names
to present corrupt teachings. They accomplished their work
with great skill and finesse, and flooded Sufi literatures with
such awe-inspiring scholarship that for the ordinary Muslims it
became well-nigh impossible to separate the grain from the

Features of Islamic Tasawwuf

In Islamic Tasawwuf, a Sufi is reminded of:
1. No one other than Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has any power;
be he a Messenger or a Prophet or a Ghawth or a Qut}b.
2. Seeking help from any one other than Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> is out of question; so much so that it is harmful for
the seeker to turn towards anyone. He should always be
attentive to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. This is known as
tabattul (, to devote ones life to Allah, see Su>rah
Muzzammil, 73:8).
3. Ma>sha>Allah la> quwwata illa> billa>h; no one can do
anything until Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> gives him the

 ? :  @ 1#l d
C 8  Su>rah Yu>nus, 10:107.

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

strength for it. That is why Muhyiddin Abdul Qadir

Jilani (r) has said in the Third Discourse of Futuh}ul
Ghaib: La> fa>ila fil-h{aqi>qate illaLla>h, i.e. in reality, no
one is a doer except Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. So, do not call
anyone besides Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. The entire Qura>n
is a testimony to this command. Some of the relevant
verses are appended below:
Nor call on any, other than Allah; Such will neither
profit you nor hurt you.1
And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no
god (to benefit nor hurt) but He.2
So call not on any other god with Allah, or you will be
among those under the Penalty.3

Alien Ideas
Ideas enter Tasawwuf
The objective of the Qara>mit}a was to turn the Muslims
away from Tawh}i>d, and herd them into the fold of the
Mushriks. That was in the mind of Abdullah b. Saba>>, their
religious and spiritual master, when he divinized Syyeduna Ali
(r). Even though he was put to death by Syyeduna Ali (r), he
still succeeded in sowing the seed of Shirk in the land of Islam.
The tree of Qara>mit}a has grown from that seed. Muslims in this
fifteenth century are still harvesting its bitter fruit.
Islam distinguished itself by removing the curse of the
worship of man from the pure worship of Allah alone. But that
distinction was wiped out rather deftly by Abdullah b. Saba>>
and his successors, namely, al-Qadda>h{ and H{amda>n Qarmat}.

h T#d
 &  08  4     D 64 m
5 $  Su>rah Yu>nus, 10:106.
      # 7 i A%    n 4 m
5 $  Su>rah Qas}as}, 28:88.
 +9&   6 4  <-@ # 7 i A%    n 4 m
5 $  @ Su>rah Shuara, 26:213.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

While Ram and Krishna are god-incarnate to the Hindus,

Isma>i>l and Ali are the god-incarnate to the Qara>mit}a. In times
of distress, the Hindus call Ram for help. In times of distress,
the Qara>mit}a call Ali for help. God is defunct in both places.
Many Muslims follow the Qara>mit}a unwittingly, and think that
Syyeduna Ali (r) has the power to remove difficulties, so in
grief and misery they call him instead of calling Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la>. And the true Muslims who plead with them against
such acts are then mocked as Wahha>bis.
In the garb of Sufis, the Qara>mit}a misled the Muslims,
who then became slack in performing good deeds, and
abandoned struggle for moral improvement. They dished out
the prescription of Na>d-e-Aliya (call of Ali) as a panacea for all
problems of life. A long list of its application is given in a book
called Jawa>hir-e-Ghaibi (Gems from the Unseen). Some of the
uses of this cure-all are: to dispel the effects of magic, to win
the attention of the object of love, to subdue the enemy, to get
a release from prison, to acquire wealth, to get a vision of the
Prophet (s), to receive knowledge of the Unseen, to excel in
studies, to create enmity between two people, and to achieve
fulfilment of desires.
Indeed, the aforementioned book mentions many trivial
uses of Na>d-e-Aliya. The question of how to prove the
authenticity of these claims is immaterial. Undoubtedly,
mystifying secrets like this are beyond the grasp of human
intellect. It is sufficient to say that this kind of Tasawwuf has
rendered the Muslims bereft of any power and zeal for active
struggle. Quite cleverly this adulation raised the dignity of
Syyeduna Ali (r) to a higher standing above the Prophet (s).
Indeed, that was the whole intention. To wit, all attention
should now be directed to Syyeduna Ali (r) in order to
effectively relegate Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and His Prophet (s)
from their central position. If Tasawwuf leads Muslims to this
form of Personality Cult instead of the unadultrated worship of

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, then every true Muslim should seek
refuge of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> before falling in its trap.
The Qara>mit}a introduced their own expressions and
ideas in famous books like Fus}u>s> al-H{ikam and Futu>h}a>t al-
Makkiya of Ibnul Arabi. They even wrote books and ascribed
them to great authors of Islam. They wrote their own Rubaiyat
and inserted them in Ru>mis Diwan-e-Shams-e-Tabrez, or
published some Rubaiyat in the name of Syyeduna Ali (r),
Muinuddin Chishti (r) of Ajmer, and others. In all these works
they persisted in elevating the position of Syyeduna Ali (r) to
divine levels. In order to seal their obsession for Syyeduna Ali
(r), they introduced a Hadith in the name of the Prophet (s).
This Hadith is recorded in Tirmidhi, and says: I am the city of
knowledge or I am the house of wisdom, and Ali is its gate. The
narrator of this Hadith was Shari>k at-Ta>bei. Tirmidhi himself
did not regard him as trustworthy. Ibn Jauzi, Yahya b. Muin,
Syyed Hussain Ahmad Madani, Tahir Patni, and others thought
that this Hadith was fabricated (Maud{u).
At some stage this practice of interpolation reached an
epidemic proportion. When Maulana Ja>mi visited Baghdad, he
found an overwhelming presence of Rawa>fid{ (Twelver Shias) in
that city. He had gone there to face objections to what he had
supposedly written in Silsila adh-Dhahab (the Golden Chain). It
turned out that these were words interpolated by the Rawa>fid{
and then attributed to Ja>mi. It was and still is a common
practice of the Rawa>fid{ to write attractive poetry in which they
exaggerate the status of Syyeduna Ali (r) in order to establish
his divinity. Many a times they attribute such works to great
Sunni poets and thinkers by stealth.
One would ask how do they practice such forgery and
get away with it unnoticed? The answer to this enigma lies in
the fact that without exception all the Sufis hold Syyeduna Ali
(r) in high regard and ascribe to him a position of lofty dignity.
Moreover, in three out of the four major Sufi Tariqas, the chain

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

(silsila) of Masters starts from Syyeduna Ali (r). So, while the
Sufi Masters have devoted pious praise for the first three
Caliphs, they have been no less dedicated to Syyeduna Ali (r).
Such being the general sentiment of awe, it was not difficult for
the Rawa>fid{ to insert their exaggerations undetected into
literature produced by the Sunni Sufis. For instance, if Ja>mi
wrote a poem in his praise for Syyeduna Ali (r), quite easily the
Rawa>fid{ added a few of their own verses in his work.

The Sep
eparation of Tariqah from Shariah
The Qara>mit}a used another strategy very effectively.
Unceasingly, they preached a doctrine that Tariqah and Shariah
were two different matters altogether.1 So, when an adept
entered the fold of Tariqah, he was no longer bound by the
rigours of Shariah. It was then up to his sweet will whether he
did or did not follow the rules of Shariah.
In the body politic of Islam, the division of religious and
temporal had already made inroads. This non-Islamic concept
had created great unrest in the moral and collective life of the
Muslims. What remained of the social fabric was then knocked
down by a kind of Tasawwuf whose origin was not Islamic. The
division of Tariqah and Shariah opened the door for Iba>ha{ t-e-
Mut}laqah ( Absolute Permissibility), i.e. a carefree and
whimsical approach to Shariah rulings. As a result, the last
vestiges of the Muslims, i.e. their spiritual life was also badly
The Qara>mit}a needed this division of Tariqah and
Shariah, because although they had donned the garb of
Tasawwuf, their heart was fully attuned to non-Islamic
teachings. Therefore, in order not to be blamed for non-

Today this concept of Shariah and Tariqah being separate departments is
a fait accompli in the teachings of many Sufis, as will be seen later in this

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

compliance of Shariah, they needed this ostentation. Moreover,

their ardent followers went around to people spreading the
belief that five times prayers was the requirement of the
common masses, whereas these shaykhs were in a perpetual
state of prayer. As a result, Qalandariyah 1 and Mala>matiyah 2
Sufis popped up here, there and everywhere. They were
completely free from the imperatives of Shariah. Not only did
they feel proud of this freedom, in belittling Shariah they also
proclaimed special distinction for themselves.
The Qalandars kept roaming around and lived a life of
mendicancy. They enjoyed their travels. They did not have to
struggle for their livelihood. When they arrived in a new place,
they would impress the local Muslims with their holiness
(other-worldliness), and got entertained with sumptuous food.
However, in due course they descended into moral turpitude,
the details of which are too sordid to recount.
The Mala>matis on the other hand contributed most in
the weakening of Islam and the Muslims. They destroyed the
very foundations of religion. They committed every such act
that the Shariah prohibited. The Qara>mit}a equipped them with
strange ideas which were no less than the handiwork of Satan,
such as:
1. The goal of Tasawwuf is to conquer Nafs Amm>arah (the
commanding self).
2. One way to conquer it is to degrade or humiliate it.

Qalandari: Vagrants professing to mysticism; persons not tied down by
religious and worldly conventions. They pretend that they are fully
absorbed in the thought of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Mala>mati: Path of blame taken by some Sufis which involves
deliberately provoking people to have a bad opinion of them. The
intention here is to create an impression that they are so engrossed in the
love of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> that they have no time to care for public

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

3. With that aim, one should do things for which people

would be filled with disgust and hatred.
4. With peoples censure, abusive language, and
humiliations, one would be driven out of Islam. As a
result, one would be socially boycotted. Only then Nafs
Amm>arah could transform into Nafs Mutmainnah (the
satisfied soul).

The Dubious Popularity of the Mala>matiya

Since strict adherence to Shariah is a burden on Nafs
Amm>arah, the mystic logic of the Mala>matiya soon gained
acceptance among those who looked for escapes and short-cuts.
Consequently, even after so many centuries, these people can
be found in many parts of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. They
declare openly that Tariqah and Shariah are two distinct bodies
within Islam. Little wonder that many of their Pi>rs do not
practice obligatory prayers and fasting, nor do they follow
Shariah in other matters of life. They claim that they have
ascended to such heights of spirituality where these visible
practices are meaningless. In support of this falsehood they
refer to the Qura>nic verse which says according to them: And
worship your Lord until certainty comes to you.1 On the basis
of this verse, they assert that since they have achieved
certainty, they do not need any worship. However, it is a well-
known fact that the Prophet (s) never neglected daily prayers
until his last day. No wonder, certainty or al-Yaqi>n in this
verse has been translated by most scholars as death. So,
generally the translation goes something like this: And serve
your Lord until comes to you the Hour, or Death, that is

S ' 
 '$Q 8 _"-  
 "+G 5 * .  Su>rah H{ijr, 15:99.

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

By the same token, they disregard prohibitions. So, if

they partake of drink, they say: We drink to make people think
bad of us; this is how we kill our Nafs, which is the goal of
Islam. Sufis who do not follow Shariah are the Mula>hi} da, and
Sufis who are against the Shariah are the Zana>diqa.1 In the
world of Islam they have been active with their fitnah since the
fifth century. Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi (1551-
1642) has said: Those who differentiate between Shariah and
Tariqah are not Sufis. They belong to the Ba>ti} niya sect.

Other Features of non-

non-Islamic Tasawwuf
The non-Islamic Tasawwuf that entered the life of the
Muslims can be termed as Iranian or Ajami (non-Arab)
Tasawwuf. It had nothing to do with Islam in the sense that its
core teachings were against the doctrines of Islam. Most of the
objectives of Iranian Tasawwuf are in clear contrast with the
unambiguous laws of Islam. Islam teaches the worship of Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, whereas the Iranian Tasawwuf is the main flag-
bearer of human worship. To them Tasawwuf is not an integral
part of religion,
religion, it is a parallel religion.
The seeds of non-Islamic Tasawwuf were sown by the
Qara>mit}a. In order to promote their vested interests and
blasphemous doctrines, they took up the guise of Tasawwuf.
Dressed as Dervishes they misguided a large number of
Muslims. Indeed, they had the looks of a Sufi, but their
character was not. They spread their erroneous doctrines among
the aspiring Sufis. The common masses held the Sufis in such
reverence that they completely overlooked the difference
between a genuine Sufi and a fake Sufi. They would blindly
accept anything coming from a Sufi without ever daring to
dispute. Such was the case of Fazlullah Astarabadi (1340-

Mula>hi} da (plural of Mulh}id) and Zana>diqa (plural of Zindi>q):
Disbelievers and Atheists.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

1394). He was a Ba>ti} ni, he believed in syncretism of religions,

and was the originator of H{uru>fism. He started his campaign in
the attire of a Dervish and presented himself as a Sufi. He
declared the abrogation of Shariah laws, permissibility of
prohibitions, and the abandonment of mandatory obligations.1
As mentioned earlier that the Sufis had the assurance of
general good opinion about them. Such a predicament allowed
the deviant Sufis to peddle false doctrines without much
opposition, and wreak havoc with their mischief. For instance,
the assassin of Niz}am > ul Mulk T{us> i> (1018-1092) was an Isma>i>li.
With the pretensions of a Sufi, he became close to T{us> i>. He
killed T{us> i> as soon as he got the opportunity. Similarly, two
others from the same sect went to the Shah of Iran, Shah Abbas
Safawi (1571-1629) in the garb of a Sufi. However, they tried
unsuccessfully to dissuade him from his belief in the Twelver
Shia doctrines, i.e. the Imamate.
Historically, the most notorious Isma>i>li subsect was the
Hashsha>shi>n. They too operated in the garb of the Sufis. When

H{uru>fism: A mystical kabbalistic Sufi doctrine based on the letters of the
alphabet. An entry in Wikipedia says: According to Fazlullah
>di the key to open the seventh sealed book, the Qura>n, is a
kabbalistic system of letters that is expounded by later H{uru>fis in the
Hida>yat-Na>ma, Ja>wida>n, and in the Mah}ram-Na>ma. The Universe is
eternal and moves by rotation. Gods visage (face) is imperishable and is
manifest in Man, the best of forms z}uhu>r kibriya>. God is incarnated in
every atom. H{uru>fis considered Fazlullah, a manifestation of Gods force
after Adam, Moses and Muhammad. God is also embodied in words. The
28 letters of the Arabic alphabet and the 32 letters of Persian are the
basis for love and beauty in the world. Seven is a key number
corresponding to the noble parts of the face, the verses of Al-Fa>tih}a, and
the verbal confession of faith. Man is a supreme copy of the divine and
the key to h}aqi>qah.
According to R.N. Fryes Cambridge History of Iran, H{uru>fism was an
expression of Isma>ilism in its mystical identification of human figure,
but differed in its recognition of h}aqi>qah in the substance of letters
rather than in the person of the Imam.

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

they spoke of Tasawwuf, they would mix with it their own

doctrines. So, their personal opinions would become popular as
genuine Tasawwuf. For example, they had the conviction that
after death the soul of an A<rif 1 entered the body of an adept.
Although, in its meaning, this doctrine was no different from
Incarnation, it nonetheless came from the Sufis. In order
therefore to distance themselves from this accusation, Iranian
mystic philosopher Mulla Ha> Hadi
>di Sabzwa>
Sabzwari>ri (1797-1873) has
termed it as Notional Incarnation in his Asra>rul H{ikam, vol. 1,
p. 248.
Ibn Khaldu>
Khaldun > , the famous author of Muqaddimah, wrote:
Eventually, the bond between the Gha>li Isma>i>li Shias and the
early Sufis who believed in immanence and the divinity of the
Imams, became stronger. The original Isma>i>lis were not aware
of these doctrines. However, as time went, the Isma>i>lis and
Sufis were influenced by each other and their ideas and
doctrines started to merge together. As a result, the concept of
Qut}b (Pole) became common among the Sufis as well. Qut}b
means the leader or head of all the A<rifs. However, without any
proof, the Sufis accepted the notion that in the domain of Irfa>n
(gnosis) one cannot become a Qut}b until after the death of his
predecessor. This honour is then passed on to his successor by
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. This doctrine resembles the Isma>i>li
doctrine of Imamah, that when an Imam dies, his soul is
transferred to his successor, due to which he earns divinity and
sinlessness; and that is why, while an Imam is alive, another
person cannot assume the position of Imam.
Hence, the renowned philosopher Ibn Si>na (980-1037),
who was a Ba>ti} ni>, has hinted at this principle of divinely
protected Imams in his Kita>b al-Isha>ra>t wat-Tanbi>ha>t (Book of
Remarks and Admonitions). He wrote: The dignity of this
rank is the supreme truth. It is a divine gift, hence it is not
A<rif is a mystic who has supposedly gained an intimate knowledge of

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

possible for anyone to aspire for it. Nor can more than one
person be installed in this position at one and the same time.
It should be noted that this notion of the continuation of
the Poles (Aqt}a>b) can neither be established from Shariah, nor
from logical deductions. It is simply an honorific title, a later
innovation, and resembles the Shia (particularly the Isma>i>li)
doctrine, in which Ima>mah is usually inherited by the son (just
like the transfer of property). There is no doubt that the Sufis
copied this idea from the Gha>li Shias. So, just like the Ba>ti} niya
believe that the next in rank to the Imams are the Nuqaba,1 the
Sufis believe that the next in rank to the Poles are the various
grades of Awliya. The resemblance goes even further. In most
Tariqahs, when a Sufi is installed as a Shaykh, he is linked in a
chain (silsila>) of Mashaikh that connects him right back to
Syyeduna Ali (r). This is a clear evidence that they did it under
the influence of the Shias. Be that as it may, it will be wrong to
say that Syyeduna Ali (r) was endowed with a singular position
over and above the other closest Companions of the Prophet (s)
by virtue of some unique deeds.
Without doubt, after the Prophet (s), the most pious of
all the Companions were Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) and Syyeduna
Umar (r). But none of them had a distinction over others by
virtue of some special religious practices. The truth is, that as
close companions, all of them were the ultimate examples of
strictness in following religion, sacrifice, abstinence and
spiritual struggle. Abundant proof of this is found in their
biographies and in the early history of Islam. However, in
manufacturing idealizing stories, the Shias wanted to paint a
different picture of Syyeduna Ali (r), in order to establish the
belief that he was raised to a higher esteem compared to all
other Companions.

Nuqaba>: plural of Naqi>b, proclaimer, herald.

1.03 - Shia Intrusion in the Sufi Circles

At this stage, it will be useful to shed some light on the

unauthentic, unreliable and false narrations that the Shias
introduced in great works of the genuine Sufis, and how they
became popular with Sufis who were not well-versed in the true
teachings of Islam.

1.04 Mutilat
ions in the Works of Popular Sufis

Saeed Nafisis Views

Iranian scholar Professor Saeed Nafisi (1896-1966)
wrote in his research on Fari>duddi>n Atta>r of Nisha>pur (1145-
1220): When various sects started to take root in Islam, they
found a large number of followers in Iran from their very
inception. In fact, their foundations were laid by the Iranians.
The proof of that is as clear as broad daylight. Prior to the Arab
conquest, the Iranians had lived in great splendour and dignity
for more than twelve hundred years. Therefore, they could not
easily digest and tolerate the rule of the Caliphs of Damascus or
Baghdad. That was the reason why Iranians would continually
invent new doctrines, and find ready acceptance from a
significant number of people. This phenomenon continued up to
the ninth century.
In the fifth century, most of the Iranians were either
Hanafis or Shafei>s. In Tabaristan, the Zaidi sect of the Shias
was in majority. Sabzwa>r was dominated by the Jafariya Shias.
Isma>i>lis were in control of Qazwi>n. The Kara>miya sect was
prominent in Southern Khorasan. The Sufis on their part
remained aloof from these sects, and did not oppose any one.
Until the sixth century all Sufis were Hanafis, with the
exception of the celebrated Khwaja Abdullah Ans} Ansa} ri
>ri (1006-
1088) who was a Hanbali. Atta>r belonged to the Kubrawiya
Sufi order and was devoted to Shaykh Najmuddi>
Najmuddin > Kubra (1145-
1220) who was a Sunni and not a Shia. However, this Sufi order
adopted Shiaism under Mir Syyed Ali H{ Hamada>
amada >ni (1314-1384).
The writer of Maja>lis al-Mumini>n, who was well-
known for Shia glorification, tried hard to prove that Atta>r was
a Shia. He would refer to the couplets that Atta>r wrote in honor
of Syyeduna Ali (r). But the fact is, that Atta>r eulogized all four
Caliphs without distinction. He also condemned the prejudices

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

of both Shias and Sunnis. It must be noted that Atta>rs couplets

on the first three Caliphs have disappeared from the modern
prints in Tehran, although they can still be found in the original
manuscripts. For instance, in Atta>rs manuscript of Mus}i>bat-
Na>ma, their are 27 couplets in praise of Abu> Bakr (r), 22
couplets in praise of Umar (r), and 27 couplets in praise of
Uthma>n (r). However, in its 1354 A.H. edition from Tehran,
these couplets have been removed. Of the 66 books attributed
to Atta>r, only 10 were actually written by him.
It must also be noted that the Iranian Shias did not use
foul language for the first three Caliphs before the Safawi rule.
Prof. Saeed Nafisis research brings out the following:
1. In the guise of Sufis, the Qara>mit}a introduced such
counterfeit doctrines in Islamic Tasawwuf that it
became impossible for the common Muslims to
distinguish between truth and falsehood.
2. They assumed the role of Sufi Masters, and continued to
philosophize on their doctrines in their Maja>lis
(gatherings) day and night. As a result, these doctrines
became an inseparable part of the emotional, moral and
spiritual life of the simple-minded and gullible Muslims.
Reflexively, in times of distress, they would call upon
someone who is equally helpless and no less mortal. The
real Tasawwuf on the other hand, stands for erasing
every trace of other-than-Allah from the heart (i.e.
psyche, in the modern jargon).
3. They inserted their own doctrines in the books of
famous authors, and where it was possible they deleted
proper Islamic doctrines.
4. They deceived the people by attributing their own
writings to famous Sufi Masters.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

5. Using Taqiyah (i.e. bluff or deception to hide ones real

identity) they kept both the elite and the ordinary in the
dark for ages.
The extraordinary success that the Qara>mit}a enjoyed in
this mission was due to the fact that the Seeker (Muri>d) was
put under a vow of absolute compliance of the Masters
instructions. On the face of it, this was not bad, because in
every profession the novice can only learn if he follows the
adept diligently. However, problem starts when the sentiment
of obedience becomes abandonment of the rational faculty, and
the personality of the Shaykh becomes an object of worship.
This is what happened to many of the ignorant disciples. The
result was as desired by the Qara>mit}a. No one dared to
question, let alone remove, the unIslamic doctrines and
irrational beliefs and practices that found their way into
genuine Sufi literatures. Eventually, this thoughtless
conformity and blind faith brought a bad name to Tasawwuf,
and by extension, it paralysed the intellectual growth of the
It is not just the Sufi literature which was so cleverly
mutilated by the enemies of Islam, it covers all other Islamic
literature, including biographies and history. Those who
observe closely, can see that a large number of books are
coming out in the print-media all the time, which contain every
form of forgery as well as bogus ideas in the name of Islam that
defy human reason.

H{adi>qatul H{aqi>qah of H{aki>m Sana>i

H{adi>qatul H{aqi>qah is the oldest Persian poetry on
Tasawwuf. Of the two available manuscripts, one is printed in
Tehran, the other in Lucknow, India. The preface of the Tehran
manuscript says: Sana>i was the first Sufi who wrote on
Tasawwuf in the Persian language. In describing his doctrines

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

he expressed excessive kinship for the family of Ali. On the

other hand, for the family of Abu Sufyan, he had nothing but
enmity. Thats why the Ulama branded him as a Kafir, and his
book as a source of Unbelief. They opposed him so much that
Bahram Shah, the Sultan of Ghazni, imprisoned him. From the
time it was composed in the sixth century till date, many
changes and interpolations have been made in the book. The
number of couplets are different in different manuscripts. Some
have five thousand couplets, some six thousand and some ten
thousand. No two manuscripts match in all respects. Some of
the differences are bewildering. In one manuscript, additional
praises of Ali and his sons Hasan and Hussain have been
included. Some include the mention of the Battle of the
Camels, while it is not mentioned in most others.
It is clear that the Saba>>i>s had a hand in these
adulterations. Their intention was to defame Sana>i, and render
his works as untrustworthy.
The Lucknow manuscript was printed in 1887 (1304
A.H.) with some notes written by Khwaja Abdul Latif. Latif He
wrote in the Preface: Since in India no two manuscripts were
the same, Nawab Muhammad Aziz Khan-e-Azam sent someone
to Ghazni in the year 1000 A.H. to get a correct version of
H{adi>qatul H{aqi>qah from there. I saw this manuscript with Amir
Abdur Razzaq in my hometown Agra. In 1037, I wrote some
notes on it.
Before this, Khwaja Abdul Latif had written a
commentary on some difficult couplets of the Mathnawi
Manawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Ru>mi. This commentary was
entitled Lat}a> if-e-Manawi (Subtleties of Manawi). Its
importance can be judged by the fact that the renowned
orientalist Prof. R.A. Nicholson benefited from it immensely.
The notes of Khwaja Abdul Latif are the last words on the
H{adi>qah. No one dared to add anything after him.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

In the book, after the customary praise for the Prophet

(s), Sana>i extols the virtues of the first three Caliphs, Abu
Bakr, Umar and Uthma>n. This proves that he was a Sunni. He
then adds praises for Ali, Hasan and Hussain. This is where the
Saba>> i>s have added couplets which represent nothing but sheer
blasphemy. It must be remembered that earlier the Saba>> i>s had
raided the Kaba. They removed the Black Stone from there,
and buried it in the courtyard of their leader, in order that it
could be trampled underfoot by people visiting that place. Then
they set out to mutilate authentic Sufi works of great Masters.
In this they succeeded in spreading unIslamic superstitions and
dogma in the Sufi circles. In due course, these new ways came
to be regarded as Traditional Islam. These home-grown
Traditions became so deep-seated in the psyche of the Sunni
Muslims that, to reawaken Islamic Tradition in their life was
now a great challenge. [More on this in the later parts of this
Among other things, the Saba>> i>s added the following in
H{adi>qatul H{aqi>qah:
1. That Mua>wiah (r) participated in the Battle of Camels.
Historically, it is not true! It was added simply to
demonize Mua>wiah (r), and show him as the arch-
enemy of Syyeduna Ali (r).
2. That Muhammad b. Abu Bakr tried to kill his sister
Ummul Mumini>n Ayesha (r). Downright falsehood!
3. That Mua>wiah (r) assassinated Ummul Mumini>n
Ayesha (r). Again, not proven in History!

Fawa>idul Fawa>id of Khwaja Nizamuddin Awliya
The famous historian Qazi Minhaj
Minhaj Siraj wrote in his
T{abaqa>t Na>si} ri> (p 98) about an event that took place during the
rule of Sultana Razia bint Altamash (1205-1240):

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

Nur> Turk Qarmat}
Qarmati} migrated to Delhi from Multan in
634 Hijri. He started a Kha>nqah there, and in the garb of a Sufi
won over many Sunni Muslims to his teachings. Gradually,
many Qara>mit}a from Gujrat and Sind gathered in that Kha>nqah.
Nu>r Turk stepped up his lectures, teachings and guidance. In his
lectures he would abuse the Sunni Ulama as plotters, and
dissuade the common Muslims from the madhhab of Imam Abu
Hanifa (r). Within six months his hold on the common folks
was fully established. On Friday 6th of Rajab, 634 Hijri, the
Qara>mit}a entered the Ja>me Masjid, and began killing unarmed
people indiscriminately. Eventually, they were surrounded by
the soldiers and put to the sword.
Since Qazi Minhaj was a contemporary witness to this
event, his reports are more reliable than any other hearsay. In
the main, it proves beyond doubt that Nu>r Turk was a Qarmat}i
preacher. But four hundred years after the event, Shaykh Abdul
Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi wrote in his Akhba>r-ul-Akhya>r:
Qazi Minhaj has mentioned about Nu>r Turk in his
T{abaqa>t Na>si} ri> in a manner that would suggest that he was a
Shia. However, in Fawa>idul Fawa>id, Shaykh Nizamuddin
Awliya has said, that even though some Ulama have denounced
him, in actual fact he was purer than rain water.
This one sentence in Fawa>idul Fawa>id elevated Nu>r
Turk Qarmat}is status in the eyes of all subsequent Sufis,
including Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi, as purer
than rain water. No one ever had the moral courage to point
out that it was an interpolation in the works of Shaykh
Nizamuddin Awliya. Coming from a venerable Shaykh, his
words were naturally accepted with pious sentiments. Be that
as it may, the report of Qazi Minhaj, a contemporary witness, is
certainly more reliable than any opinion formed centuries later.
By the same token, we can say that all other sayings
attributed to Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya are not trustworthy

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

either. For example, he collected the sayings of his master

Shaykh Fariduddin Ganj Shakar in a book entitled Ra>ha} tul
Qulu>b. In page 85 of its 1309 Hijri print, it says:
One day, the Prophet (s) was sitting with all the senior
Companions. Muawiah passed by with Yazid on his shoulder.
The Prophet (s) smiled, and said: One destined for Hell is
riding one destined for Paradise. Upon hearing this, Ami>rul
Mumini>n Ali (r) said: O Messenger of Allah, but he is the son
of Muawiah. How could he go to Hell? The Prophet (s)
replied: O Ali, this wretched Yazid will kill Hasan and Hussain
and all my progeny. Ali (r) got up, unsheathed his sword, and
proceeded to put an end to him right there. But the Prophet (s)
said: O Ali, do not do that, for Allah has already decreed this
to happen. Ali started to weep, and asked: O Messenger of
Allah, will you be with us at that time? The Prophet replied:
No. Ali asked again: Will any of our Companions be alive at
that time? He said, no. Then he asked: Will I be alive? He
said, no. Then he asked: Will Fatima be alive? He said, no.
Then he asked: Who will mourn for my unfortunate ones? He
said, my followers. Then both the Prophet (s) and Ali wept.
They drew the two princes to their embrace, and cried aloud: O
unfortunate ones! We do not know what will happen to you in
this desolation.
Before any analysis, one would ask: Who is the narrator
of this piece? He is Sulta>nul Masha>ikh Nizamuddin Awliya.
Where did he get it from? From his own spiritual master
Shaykhul Masha>ikh Fariduddin Ganj Shakar. If thats the case,
who can expect a disciple of the Chishtiya Order to question
the veracity of this narration? Sadly though, the truth is, that
every word of this narration is full of deliberate lies and slander.
Without doubt the Prophet (s) died in 11 Hijri. while
Yazid was born in 26 Hijri. It proves that the above narration is
a concocted fiction. It is very likely that the Saba>> i>s, as was
their wont, inserted this story in the sayings of these great

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

Shaykhs, in order that Muslims in general and the Chishti Sufis

in particular could be led astray.
It must be mentioned here that the Prophet (s) had given
the good news that the first Muslim army to attack the
Byzantine city of Constantinople will be admitted to Paradise.
We know that the first army that went to Byzantium was led by
Yazid. Many Companions went with him. Notable among them
were Abu Ayyub Ansari (r), Abdullah b. Umar (r) and Hussain
b. Ali (r). And as it was customary in those day, these senior
men prayed behind Yazid as their Imam. It is an irony that the
one for whom the Prophet (s) has given the good news of
Paradise, is cursed by his followers unceasingly.

The Confusions surrounding Ja>mi

After Sana>i, Atta>r and Ru>mi, the most prominent name
in Sufi literature is that of Abdur Rahman Ja>mi (1414-1492).
He was an adherent of the Naqshbandiya Sufi order. The
spiritual link of this order goes right back to Syyeduna Abu
Bakr (r). He was initiated into this order by Shaykh Saduddin
Kashgari, and then trained by Shaykh Khwaja Ah}ra>r of the
same order. He has been mentioned as a Sunni by all
biographers, the evidences of which are found in abundance in
many of his own works.
Despite that, Muhammad Hussain al- al-Hussaini has
written: Although all the evidences indicate that he was
hostile to Shiaism, we consider him as one who practised
taqiyah, i.e. one who was a Shia in his heart but posed as a
Sunni in his speeches and writings. In support of this
argument, he presented a story narrated by Ali b. Abdul A<l:
Ja>mi and I travelled together to Najaf. Using taqiyah, I did not
reveal to him my beliefs. On the way we stopped at Baghdad.
One day we went to the bank of the Tigris for a leisure. A
qalandar (i.e. a mendicant who lived a bohemian, vagrant life)

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

appeared in the crowd and started singing a qas}id> a (eulogy) in

praise of Ali. Ja>mi was deeply affected by it and went down in
prostration. When he raised his head, he called the mendicant
and gave him gifts. Then he said to me: Why didnt you ask
me the reason for humbling myself and for going down in
prostration? I said: Because, the reason was evident. Ali was
the fourth Caliph, and to show him respect is wa>jib
(obligatory). Ja>mi said: Ali was not the fourth Caliph, he was
the first. It is now proper that you should remove the garb of
taqiyah, because enough affection has developed between us. I
am among the sincere Shias, but taqiyah is obligatory.
Some ostensibly reliable authorities have quoted Ja>mis
household servants, claiming that members of his family
practised Shiaism openly. Even then Ja>mi exaggerated in his
taqiyah, and would always remind his family to do the same.
Irani the writer of the preface of Kulliya>t-
Hashim Raza Irani,
e-Ja>mi (Collections of Ja>mi, pages 86-96 and 191-197) having
quoted the above fictitious stories, added: These stories are
meant to prove the Shia faith of Ja>mi, but they are certainly on
shaky grounds because time and again Ja>mi has proclaimed Abu
Talib as a ka>fir, clearly against the ruling of the Shias. Some
others have said that Ja>mi was a Sunni by faith, but towards the
end of his life became a Shia. But Hashim Raza has said: This
too is wrong, because in the mathnawi>s that he wrote in his last
days, he continued to praise the four Caliphs without fail. Be
that as it may, the long-haired philosophers have at least
succeeded in sowing the seeds of doubt. They have succeeded
in reducing the matter of Ja>mi to a subject of argument and
It is clear from the above that the Saba>>i>s, the Ba>ti} nis,
and the enemies of the Companions of the Prophet (s) did
introduce spurious materials in the works of the famous Sufi
Masters deliberately, in order to create confusion in the minds
of their devotees about their real faith. Subtle methods were

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

used to persuade the devotees into accepting that these

personages practised taqiyah, or were sympathetic to Shiaism.
It turns out that they were aiming at an outcome in which these
devotees should have no reason to be appehensive of the Shia
faith. And that is exactly what happened. The Sufi circles were
now being led by the Shias surreptitiously. The subsequent
Sufis renounced their own faith with a touch of bravado, and
grounded their Tasawwuf on Tashayyo unerringly. Over the
centuries, generally in the Indian sub-continent, but mainly in
Pakistan, most of the incumbents of the shrines of great saints,
have become Shias. They influence their ignorant devotees into
a belief that these venerable saints were also the followers of
Shia faith. Ironically, a situation has arisen in which we find
that those who look after the shrines as successors are Shias,
but the saints they revere were Sunnis! Astonishing indeed!
Needless to say that this is the result of a thousand year long
undercover effort of the Saba>> i>s and the Ba>ti} nis. Therefore, it
does not come as a surprise if it turns out that the profession of
Tasawwuf is the other name of the profession of Tashayyo.

Mutilations in Ru>mis
is Works
To their credit, the Saba>> i>s and the Qara>mit}a have not
introduced anything in Ru>mis Mathnawi. But, in his di>wans
and other works, some passages and poems have been inserted.
Disturbing narrations which Ru>mi could not have written are
found in his works. Here is an example of that:
One night, the Prophet (s) and his Companions were
returning from a battle (ghazwa). He asked them to proclaim
aloud that they would spend the night outside the gate of the
city, and enter the city the next morning. When the
Companions asked for the reason, the Prophet (s) said: It is
possible you will find your wives in the arms of strangers. It
will hurt you, and you will become riotous. One of the

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Companions did not obey the Prophet (s). He went home, and
found his wife with another man.
There is no need to analyze a revolting story like this,
but it must be said that this is manifestly a product of the
Saba>> i>s, who would do anything to undermine the noble
character of the prophethood of Muhammad (s). However, the
following implications cannot be ignored:
1. Although the Prophet (s) was divinely informed of this
sordid affair, yet he chose to tolerate it.
2. That some Companions were disobedient, and the
Prophet (s) could not distinguish between Believers and
3. That the wives of some Companions were adultresses.
4. That the character and teachings of the Prophet (s) had
no effect on the Companions.
5. That Ru>mi was so careless that he presented his
audience with frivolous stories like this. He did not
mention the name of the narrator of this story, nor the
collection of Hadith in which he found it, nor the name
of the Companion, nor the Battle after which this
episode took place.
This is the result of Personality Worship. No one dares
to question the validity or veracity of narrations ascribed to
great Saints or Imams, let alone do something to expunge them
from printed materials. Once this predicament took roots, the
zeal for ijtiha>d (interpretative judgment) evaporated in both
matters of Tasawwuf and Fiqh. As a result, Muslims have been
stagnating for the last four centuries. So has Iqbal lamented:

Na utha> phir koi Ru>mi Ajam ke la>laza>ron se.
Not another Ru>mi arose in the tulip gardens of the East.

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

Injustices to Shaykh Muh}yiddi>n Ibnul Arabi

A study of Futu>ha} t> al-Makki>yah (The Makkan
Revelations) would make it clear that Shaykh Muh}yiddi>n Ibnul
Arabi had attained to lofty refinement in his beliefs and
practices. Reading his beliefs in the first chapter of the Futu>ha} t> ,
one is reminded of the Commentary on the Creed of Imam al-
Nasafi by Sad al-
al-Di> Din al-Tafta>za>ni (Sharh} Aqa>id an-Nasafi),
> al-
which describes the Sunni articles of Faith. However, it must be
said that the Saba>> i>s and Qara>mit}a inserted ideas in many of his
works which are against the Sunni creed. Imam Shara>ni (1493-
1565) has written in his Al-Yawa>qi>t wal-Jawa>hir:
Ibnul Arabi was totally devoted to the Qura>n and
Sunnah. He would say: Anyone abandoning the tenets of
Shariah for a moment, will surely be destroyed. All the
statements in his works which are against the explicit Shariah
are interpolations. Sidi Abu Tahir al- al-Magribi informed me
about this in Makkah. He had a copy of the manuscript of the
Futu>ha} t> . He had compared it against its original he found in
Qonia. It did not have those sentences which were present in
my copy, and whose validity was bothering me. [One wonders
if Ibnul Arabis theory of the Six Determinations or Six
Descents is also a colossal fabrication. See the details of this
theory later in Section Three of this work.]
In the same way, the Mula>hi} da and Zana>diqa (i.e. the
Saba>> i>s and Qara>mit}a) had inserted their own text in the works
of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, Allama Majduddin Firozaba>di, and
Imam Ghaza>li, specially his Ih}ya al-Ulu>m. A follower of the
Zana>diqa gained intimate access to Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal
with the pretences of a devoted student. When the Imam was in
his death bed, he seized an opportunity to place under his
pillow a book written with the Ba>ti} ni doctrines. Had it not been
for the fact that his students were well-grounded in his
doctrines, it could have caused a nasty fitnah (tumult). These

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Ba>ti} niya sects had the audacity to write a book in my name,

and in my own lifetime the book remained in circulation for
three years.

Only Allah knows whether Imam Shara>nis i contentions

about adulterations in the works of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal,
Allama Majduddin Firozaba>di, and Imam Ghaza>li are correct or
not. But such misgivings have been expressed by many other
scholars of the past and present. Logically speaking, if the
collections of the blessed Ahadith of the Prophet (s) are not
safe at the hands of the self-righteous people, then to introduce
fanciful stories in the massive literature produced by other
scholars is not difficult at all. One can imagine that in the pre-
modern times how impossible it was for a reader in any part of
the Muslim world to suspect a wrong statement in a book and
then go to the other parts of the Muslim world to verify its
authenticity. A wise saying of a saintly person would find an
immediate acceptance if it did not challenge the normal
intellect. With that assurance, if it was then claimed that the
saying was actually a Hadith, then that saying would be treated
as an infallible truth. Suffice it to say that manuscripts of many
important books have been found to be different in different
parts of the Muslim world. There is no denying of this fact.

Some Other Examples

In additiion to mutilating the works of famous Sufis, the
Saba>> i>s and Qara>mit}a portrayed some of those Sufis as
belonging to their own sects. One such Sufi was Khwaja
Abdullah Ans} >ri (1006-1088). He was the author of Mana>zil as-
Ansa} ri
Sa>iri>n (Stations of the Travellers). However, in order to prove
that he was a Shia, an Isma>i>li poet known as Kha>ki Khorasa>ni
Isma>i>li eulogized Khwaja Ans}a>ri in his diwa>n. Prof. W.
Ivanow in his preface to this diwa>n, wrote: Although the
Isma>i>li callers faced a lot of challenges, they succeeded in

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

influencing Tasawwuf, whose effects could not be erased for a

long time. Indeed, they operated as Sufis, meaning, they
impressed their audience by their dress and looks. That made it
difficult to detect their deceptions. Kha>ki used similar words of
unwarranted praise for Atta>r and Zinda Pi>l. Prof. W. Ivanow
wrote further: The Isma>i>lis maintained the special
characteristics of the Shia Tasawwuf. They studied the Sufi
texts with great fervour, but wrote commentaries on them in
the light of their own doctrines. As a result, a great multitude
of Sunnis went astray. As a general custom at that time, the
Sufis considered it as ill-manners to question anything that
came from their masters. Over a long period therefore, the
doctrines of the Sufis and the Shias were so mixed up that they
were not substantially different any more.
So, by the fourth century Hijri, non-Islamic doctrines
became widespread among the Muslims. Abu Nas}r Sarra> Sarra>j (d.
988) wrote in his Kita>b al-Luma (Book of Flashes), which was
perhaps the earliest Sufi treatise: Some Sufis in Baghdad
believe that when the personal attributes of the Seeker are
annihilated, he becomes the reflection of the Divine attributes.
But this is not true, because it opens the way to a belief in
Incarnation and Immanence, which is blasphemy.
Another interpolation in Imam Shara>nis T{abaqa>t al-
Kubra> (The Major Classes) goes like this: Ali b. abi Talib, the
gnostic of all things open and hidden, was raised up to the
upper heavens just as Jesus was raised up; and like Jesus, will
descend very soon. I, Syyed Ali, son of Syyed Muhammad
Wafa, say that Syyed Ali Khawa>s} also believed in this. I have
heard him say, that, commanded by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, Nu>h
(a) pulled out a plank from his Ark, and kept it for Ali. Later
Ali was raised up to the heavens on that plank. And Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knows best! The text of this narration clearly
indicates that the person who inserted this story in the T{abaqa>t
was a believer in Syyeduna Ali (r)s ascension to the heavens.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

He was therefore a Saba>>i>, since history tells us that Abdullah

b. Saba>> was the originator of this novel idea.
It was not the books of Tasawwuf alone, they inserted
passages containing falsehood in books of Ah}ad> i>th and Tenets
of Belief. They did that so successfully that from early times
such falsehoods have continued to puzzle the Sunnis.

an--Nasafi by Tafta>za>ni
Commentary of Aqa>id an
In the Commentary on the Creed of Imam al- al-Nasafi by
Allama Sad al-Din al-Tafta>za>ni (Sharh} Aqa>id an-Nasafi), a
text book in all madrasas of the Arab world, Imam al-Nasafi (d.
537 H) says: The Companions should always be remembered
with great respect and words of praise. In the interpretation of
this edict, Allama Tafta>za>ni, the commentator, has purportedly
added: However, the scholars have differed in the case of
Yazid b. Muawiah on the question of whether he should be
cursed or not. The matter has been decided in plain language
that it is not valid to curse Yazid or Hajjaj, because the Prophet
(s) has forbidden cursing anyone who performs Salat (daily
obligatory prayers) and belongs to the People of the Qibla.
Some have said that since Yazid issued orders to kill Hussain
rad}iyalla>ho anhu (
), he became an Unbeliever, so he should
be cursed. In addition, all those who actually killed Hussain
rad}iyalla>ho anhu (
), who allowed this to happen, and who
agreed to this plan, should also be cursed.
After narrating the dissenting opinions, Tafta>za>ni gives
his own opinion (or so it seems to the reader): The truth is,
Yazids agreeing to the murder of Hussain alaihis sala>m (
and then expressing his happiness, was an insult to the family
of the Prophet (s). These events have been recorded with
unbroken chains. Therefore, we do not hesitate to curse him.
We should not waver in judging his beliefs (i.e. we should

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

declare him a Disbeliever). So, Allahs curse be on him and on

his helpers and supporters.
But the fact remains, that Tafta>za>ni could not have
written this passage. It must have been an insersion by a Saba>> i>.
Moreover, the three reasons given in favour of cursing are not
proven from historical facts. We may therefore refer to al-
Ka>mil fit-Ta>ri>kh (The Complete History) of Ibn Athi>r (d. 630),
vol 3, pp. 299-300, published 1354-H. A summary of that is
given below:
1. When Yazid saw the head of Hussain, he said: By Allah,
I would not have killed you if I was with you in Karbala.
2. Without exception all women in the family of Yazid
mourned loudly.
3. Yazid issued orders that Ali b. Hussain (Syyeduna
Zaynul A<bedi>n) and all the family of Hussain be given a
separate house to stay. Yazid would not eat in the
morning, nor at night, without Ali b. Hussain eating
with him.
4. Yazid said: I would have kept Hussain with me in my
house, and I would do whatever he wanted me to do,
even if it meant weakening of my power in my rule. I
would have done that because of his relationship with
the Prophet (s).
5. May Allah curse ibn Marja>nah, and cover him with His
6. When Yazid decided to send them back to Madina, he
asked Numa>n b. Bashi>r (r) to gather all their necessary
belongings, appoint a trustworthy escort from among
the people of Syria, and send an army contingent with
7. At the time of departure, Yazid called Ali b. Hussain,
and said: May Allah curse ibn Marja>nah. By Allah, if I

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

was there with Hussain, I would have done anything he

wanted me to do, I would have removed his afflictions,
even if I had to sacrifice my own son for it. But, what
you have seen was Allahs will. My son! When you need
something, do write to me.
8. When the caravan arrived at Madina, Fa>ti} ma bint Ali
(i.e. daughter of Zaynul A<bedi>n) said to her sister
Zainab: This man (the incharge of the caravan) has
been very kind to us. Do you have something that we
can give him as a gift? Zainab replied: Only some
jewelry, thats all we have. Then the two sisters
collected their jewelry and sent them to the escort. But
he refused to accept them, saying: I was kind to you
because of your relationship with the Prophet (s).
From this report it can be said that cursing Yazid and
calling him an Unbeliever has no valid ground. As well as Ibn
Athi>r, it is not proven in any other authentic history either, that
Yazid had ordered the murder of Hussain, or had celebrated the
news of his murder, or had violated the honour of the women. If
anyone says that the last passage was Tafta>za>nis own opinion,
then that would be accusing Tafta>za>ni of being ignorant of
these historical accounts. Allama Tafta>za>ni died in 791 Hijri.
So, he must have read the various collections of history,
specially Ta>rikh T{abari> of T{abari> (d. 310 H), Tari>kh al-Ka>mil of
Ibn Athi>r (d. 630 H), and al-Bida>ya wan-Niha>ya of Ibn Kathi>r
(d.774 H). That being so, the reader is left with only two
choices: either be adamant that Tafta>za>ni was an ignorant man,
or accept that the passage in question was an interpolation by
the Saba>> i>s.
There is also an internal proof which shows that this
statement is a later insertion. In the manuscript of Sharh} Aqa>id
an-Nasafi published by Mujtabai Printers, Delhi, 1329 Hijri,
the word Hussain ( ) is written everywhere with the short
form of rad}iyalla>ho anhu on top. This is the practice of the

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

Sunnis. The exception is in the passage which has been

inserted. Here, the word Hussain (
) is written with the short
form of alaihis sala>m on top, a typical Shia practice. Only a few
lines earlier Hussain was written in the Sunni way, suddenly it
changed to the Shia way. This can only be done by someone
who believes that Hussain and other Shia Imams are in the rank
of the Prophets.There is no doubt therefore that the interpolator
was a Saba>> i>.

Ibn Ish}aq> s Si>rat Rasu >lulla>h
The oldest book on Si>rah [Life of the Prophet (s)] is
perhaps that of Ibn Ish}aq> . He was born in Madina in 85 Hijri
and died in Baghdad in 151 Hijri. He was a Shia by faith. Ibn
Hisha>m edited his Si>rat Rasu>lulla>h. He was born in Basra, and
in 218 Hijri, he died in Fust}a>t}, Egypt. The Si>rah of Ibn Ish}aq> is
now known as Si>rat Ibn Hisha>m. Ibn Ish}aq> writes about the
Battle of Khaybar:
Abdullah b. Suhayl told me that he heard from Jabir b.
Abdullah (r) that Marh}ab, the Jewish chieftain came out of the
fort shouting war cry, Khaybar knows well that I am Marh}ab,
etc. He then challenged the Muslims for a single combat. In
reply, Kab b. Malik (r) let out his war cry, Khaybar knows
well that I am Kab, etc. The Prophet (s) said: Who will face
this man? Muhammad b. Maslamah (r) came forward, and said:
I will combat this man. I must avenge my brothers blood
whom he killed yesterday. The Prophet allowed him to
proceed, and prayed for his success. So, Ibn Maslamah (r)
advanced to meet Marh}ab. A tree came between them. They
started to cut its branches until they were face to face with each
other. Marh}ab swung his sword at Ibn Maslamah (r), which he
defended with his shield. Then Ibn Maslamah (r) went on the
attack and killed Marh}ab.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Hisham b. Urwah has narrated that after Marh}ab was

killed, his brother Ya>sir came forward and shouted at the
Muslims for a duel. Zubair b. Awwa>m (r) went forward. His
mother Safiya (r) asked the Prophet (s): Will the enemy kill my
son? He said, no. Allah willing, he will kill the enemy. Zubair
(r) shouted, Khaybar knows I am Zabba>r, I am a leader of these
people, and I am not about to take to my heels, etc. So, Zubair
(r) killed Ya>sir.
Buraidah b. Sufyan b. Fardah told me (ibn Ish}aq> ) that
his father heard from al-Akwa that the Prophet (s) sent Abu
Bakr (r) to capture one of the fortresses of Khaybar, but he
returned without capturing the fortress. The next day, he sent
Umar (r), but he too came back with the same result. The
Prophet (s) said: Tomorrow, Ill give the banner to someone
who takes Allah and His Messenger as his friends. Allah will
give us victory on his hand. He is not one to run away. So, the
next day he called Ali (r), who was found with problems in his
eyes. The Prophet (s) applied his saliva on his eyes, so his
affliction was gone. He then gave Ali the banner, and said:
Take this and go. Allah will give us victory through you. So
Ali (r) hurried to the fortress, and fixed his banner in a heap of
stones. From the top of the fortress a Jew asked him his name.
When he told him his name, the Jew said: According to the
revelations of Musa (a) you will be victorious. Or, he hurled
some other sarcastic remarks, in reaction to which Ali (r) did
not return until victory was given to him by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa

Abdullah b. H{asan told me (ibn Ish}aq> ) that he heard

from someone in his family who heard it from Abu Ra>fe (r), a
freedman of the Prophet (s), that after Ali (r) received the
banner from the Prophet (s), he went near the fortress. One of
the Jews protecting the fortress came out to fight Ali (r). His
attack was so powerful that Ali (r)s shield fell off. Ali (r) ran
swiftly and picked up a door that was lying outside the fortress.

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

He used that as his shield until he was victorious. Then he

threw it away. Abu Ra>fe (r) tried to lift the door with the help
of seven others, but it was so heavy that they failed to lift it.
The earliest narration on this subject can be found in
Kita>b-ul-Magha>zi written by Iba>n b. Uthma>n b. Affa>n (r). As a
staunch believer of the Shia views, Ibn Ish}aq> carefully ignored
that book. Nonetheless, what comes out from the above
narrations are the following:
1. Marh}ab was not killed by Ali (r), as recorded by many
later Shia narrators. He was killed by Muhammad b.
Maslamah (r).
2. Ali (r) captured one of many fortresses of Khaybar, not
all fortresses.
3. The narration of Abdullah b. H{asan which claims that
Ali (r) used a door as a shield does not hold ground
according to the principles of narration, nor is
acceptable from the point of view of critical analysis.
Abdullah b. H{asan did not mention the name of the
person who told him the story. There is a consensus
among the scholars of Hadith that if the name of a
narrator is missing then that Hadith is not acceptable.
Secondly, from the point of view of critical analysis, it
must be said that when Ali (r) dropped his shield, he
should have picked it up quickly because it was close to
him, instead of picking up a door for which he had to
run. The story could still be accepted if the narrator had
indicated that the shield flew away, say 50 or so steps,
whereas the door was only a few steps away. Moreover,
the inconvenience of using a door as a shield is obvious.
Shields could be heavy, but a strong man could still lift
it in one hand while using the other hand for the attack
with the sword. On the other hand, the very size of a

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

door, let alone a fortress door, as well as its weight

would be a hindrance in an attacking maneuver.
4. It is clear that the story of Marh}abs duel with Ali (r)
was invented in the third century Hijri. Had it been in
circulation before, Ibn Ish}aq> would have gleefully
inserted this story in his Si>rat, since his zeal in
exaggerating Syyeduna Ali (r)s prowess is evident in
his Si>rat.
It is clear from the oldest Si>rat, i.e. that of Ibn Ish}aq> ,
that Marh}ab was killed at the hands of Muhammad b.
Maslamah (r). However, fiction-mongers did not hesitate in
manufacturing colourful stories of Syyeduna Ali (r) fighting a
duel with Marh}ab. In any case, in addition to the above
criticisms, Ibn Kathir has added the following in his Al-Bida>ya
1. H{ak> im and Baihaqi have narrated that the door was so
heavy that it could not be lifted by forty people. This is a
weak narration, and totally unacceptable.
2. Ja>bir has narrated that seventy men tried to lift the door,
but failed. This too is a weak narration, and totally
3. Al-Wa>qidi has also quoted the narration of Ja>bir that
Marh}ab was killed by Muhammad b. Maslamah (r).
In the next chapter it will be shown how Sufis of Ahle-
Sunnat were influenced by the Saba>>i> and Ba>ti} ni thoughts that
led them and their followers to stray from the right path. It
must be stressed that these Sufis were neither scholars of
Hadith nor of History. Moreover, a certain culture spread
among them in which research, close scrutiny, and criticism
were regarded as ill-manners or a show of audacity to great
saints of the past. However, in the Tasawwuf of Junaid
Baghdadi (r), there was an insistence on checking the
acceptability of every statement against the spirit of the Qura>n

1.04 - Mutilations in the Works of Popular Sufis

and Sunnah. He would say, any statement that fails the test of
the Qura>n and Sunnah must be discarded (fa-hua mardu>d), no
matter who it came from. But, by the ninth century, because of
the tireless works of the Ba>ti} niya, the good sense of the Sufis
was all but frozen. They would blindly accept anything that
was dished out to them in the name of their previous saints
even if it was an affront to common intellect. Thus, anything
said or written with reference to great saints would receive
immediate currency. That is why wrong and dubious narrations
in many books of the Sufis of Ahle-Sunnat are in circulation for
centuries, and no one has ever dared to point them out for fear
of losing popularity, dignity, and hold on the simple-minded
common folks.

1.05 Ba>ti} niya

The most dangerous and painful highway to heresy that

was thrown open by the Ba>ti} niya consisted of a notion that
every word in the Scriptures has a mundane meaning as well as
a hidden or real meaning. They stressed on the hidden aspect so
much that their own actual name which was Isma>i>liya soon
became unfamiliar, and they were now popularly known as
Ba>ti} niya. They insisted that the open meaning of the words of
the Qura>n and Hadith could be likened to the shell or crust of a
fruit, while the hidden meaning could be likened to the kernel
or nectar that is found inside the fruit or flower. They led
people to believe that the ignorant only know the popular
meaning, while the real meaning is known to the enlightened
spiritual people whose aim is gnosis or wisdom. One who is
deeply involved with the external meaning, is actually
imprisoned in the rules of Shariah, and is therefore in the lowest
level of Religion. One who comes to know the internal meaning
by virtue of ones companionship with the adept, is freed from
the restraints of Shariah. Hence, they changed the context of
the Qura>n where it says: The Prophet (s) relieves the people of
the weight of the burden that was upon them, and he removes
the shackle that was around their neck,1 and applied the words
burden and shackle to trivialize Shariah.
The Ba>ti} niya presented this fundamental teaching to the
people in the garb of Sufis. Gradually, the ignorant Sufis first
adopted the principle of distinguishing z}ah> ir (manifest, visible)
from ba>ti} n (hidden, invisible). Then they accepted its logical
conclusion, i.e. Shariah and Tariqah are two distinguishable
pastimes, and started preaching that the commandments of
Shariah are different from the commandments of Tariqah. In

 A '  . B
; : >- ]  o Q   # E
  A 0 . n d
 8 and who will relieve them of their
burdens and of the shackles that weigh upon them. Su>rah Ara>f, 7:157.

1.05 - Ba>ti} niya

the end, they accepted the Ba>ti} niya teaching that, once the
sa>lik (seeker) achieves marifah (gnosis, inner realization), he is
free from the bondage of Shariah. In support of this heretical
doctrine, they applied their own meaning to verse 99 of Su>rah
H}ijr, to say: Worship your Lord ONLY until the time you
achieve certainty, when you have achieved marifah, there is no
further need to obey Shariah laws.1
In this way, the Ba>ti} niya led millions of Muslims astray.
Generally speaking, Muslims never had any means by which
they could verify the genuineness of the person who would be
sitting in their midst in the garb of a Sufi, giving discourses on
the secrets of Tasawwuf. This is true in all ages, past and
present the future could be even worse. The malady is that in
their majlis (spiritual gathering), if an ordinary person dared to
point out to something that is not in keeping with the spirit of
the Qura>n and Sunnah, then the devotees of the Sufi-in-
disguise will label him as a trouble-maker, and promptly drive
him out of the majlis. That will be the end of the matter.
Even today, this arbitrary division of Shariah and
Tariqah is widely accepted among the Sunnis. Out of deference
they refrain from asking questions on the unorthodox practices
and claims of their Sufi shaykhs. Instead, they glorify those
claims in the light of the so-called mystical dimensions of
Tasawwuf. This division of Shariah and Tariqah was created by
the followers of Abdullah b. Saba>> . It must be said that, first
the Saba>> i>ya, and then its refined version, the Ba>ti} niya, were
nothing but rebellious movements against the prophethood
(risa>lah) of Muhammad (s). Apparently, these movements
persisted with the novel concept of wila>yat, but behind the
curtain they actually spread contempt and disdain for ris>alat.

S ' 
 '$Q 8 _"-  
 "+G 5 * .  and worship your Lord until what is certain [i.e.
death] comes to you. Su>rah H{ijr, 15:99.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Here is a gist of what Sulta>nul Arefi>n wa Burha>nul

Wa>si} li>n Maula ash-Shahi>d al-H{a>j Mulla Sulta>n Muhammad
Gana>ba>di, Sultan Ali Shah Cha>p II, II wrote in page 35 of his
Wila>yat-Nama, published by Cha>pkha>na Da>nishga>h, Tehran,
1385 Hijri:
1. Allah says: It is Allah who bestowed a favour on you by
guiding you to the true faith.1
2. Acceptance of risa>lat means taking oath (baiah) on
accepting the manifest commandments.
3. Acceptance of wila>yat means taking oath (baiah) on
accepting the hidden commandments. (It means risa>lat
concerns with the manifest commandments, and wila>yat
concerns with the hidden commandments. This is what
the Ba>ti} niya had been teaching all along, i.e. the two are
different, hence Shariah and Tariqah are two divergent
paths. The result was a division in the Ummah).
4. To accept the risa>lat of Muhammad (s) is Islam. To
accept the wila>yat of Ali (r) is Iman.
5. Allah says: If you do not do so, you will not have
conveyed His message.2 The meaning of this verse is: O
Muhammad, your risa>lat is a Prelude to Alis wila>yat. If
you have not taught wila>yat, and have not taken the
necessary baiah for wila>yat, then you havent taught
risa>lat at all. Because, if the Prelude is not followed by
the actual Contents, then the existence of the Prelude is
the same as its non-existence.
6. The true nature of the relationship of risa>lat with
wila>yat can be understood in the light of a Hadith which

 p c   : 5    < '  . T6 8   ) + Su>rah H{ujura>t, 49:17.
 - L G B
 q +  @ ) &  $    Su>rah Ma>idah, 5:67.

1.05 - Ba>ti} niya

says: If I had not created Ali, then O Muhammad! I

would not have created you either.
The implications of this last statement are:
a. Wila>yat is superior to risa>lat, because after all Iman
is a more conscious state of Islam.
b. One cannot become a Mumin until one believes in
the wila>yat of Ali (r).
c. The risa>lat of Muhammad (s) has no value of its
own, nor is it the desired objective. It is only a
Prelude to the wila>yat of Ali (r), and therefore, the
purpose of risa>lat is secondary.
d. Risa>lat is the means to achieve the main objective,
and the objective is nothing other than taking an
oath of allegiance (baiah) to the wila>yat of Ali (r).
It is an accepted fact that the end is superior than
the means. Hence, the person receiving wila>yat is
superior to the person receiving risa>lat. Said
explicitly, Syyeduna Ali (r) is superior to the
Prophet (s)!
e. About the reason for sending the Prophet (s), the
Qura>n says: It is He who has sent His Messenger
with guidance and the religion of Truth, so that He
may make it prevail [ideologically] over every other
religion.1 But, the Sulta>nul Arefi>n Sultan Ali Shah
Cha>p II has declared that Allah has sent the
Messenger (s) to take an oath of allegiance (baiah)
from the people to the wila>yat of Ali (r), and if he
failed to do so, then his existence is the same as his

 1 : 6 815  _. a # A r '  1s 
  6 8D Z5 A  +   LG ) L G  e9   Su>rah Tauba, 9:33;
Su>rah Fath}, 48:28; Su>rah S{aff, 61:9.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

The brilliance of the Shia brain is mind-boggling!

Intellect fails to grasp this; overwhelmed is reason! O
Messenger, deliver whatever has been sent down to you by your
Lord. If you do not do so, you will not have conveyed His
message. Neither in these two sentences, nor in the context
before or after, nor in the entire Qura>n, the name of Ali (r) has
been mentioned anywhere.1 Deliver whatever has been sent
down to you clearly points to delivering the message of the
Qura>n to the people. It does not point to an assignment of
taking pledge from them on the wila>yat of Ali (r). This is an
innovation par excellence!
The Shia answer to this criticism is that these are the
external meaning, whereas the Sulta>nul Arefi>n has given the
inner meaning, which is revealed only to the people of inner
secrets. This knowledge is out of the reach of the people of
grammar and etymology. They say that to understand the inner
meaning, the words of the Qura>n should be interpreted in such
a way that it would transcend grammar, etymology, meaning,
details, intellect, wisdom, and the like, and leave the reader
completely lost in the valley of bewilderment. This has been
the greatest favour of the Ba>ti} niya to the ummah of
Muhammad (s), which the common Muslims have not been able
to fathom till date! The reader may be reminded that their
fitnah was at its peak in the time of Ru>mi, and he did respond
with stern warnings against the perils of this industry.
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knew very well that Abdullah b. Saba>> will
create the fitnah of personality cult. That is why Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
mentioned only two names (Abu Lahab and Zaid [b. Ha>rithah (r)]) in the
Qura>n, about whom He knew that the Saba>i> will not be interested.
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> was so cautious in this matter, that instead of
naming Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) or using his appellation Friend in the
Cave, He chose a subordinate clause of six words to point to him, 6 ' 0t > ; t
G q  >@   u  he had no more than one companion; they two were in the
cave (Su>rah Tauba, 9:40). Even the Saba>i>s could not get away from
admitting that the second of the two was Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r).

1.05 - Ba>ti} niya

Today, many of these doctrines and practices are

popular among most Sunni sufi orders. To call Ali for help
(na>d-e-Ali) can be found not only among the common Sunnis,
but also among the enlightened Sunnis. They do so because it
has been circulated that during the Battle of Tabu>k, the Prophet
(s) called mawla Ali for help. As has been noted earlier, no
battle eventuated at Tabu>k, nor did the Prophet (s) ever commit
such blasphemy, nor did Ali go to Tabu>k, for he was left behind
to look after Madina.
Mubarak an Egyptian scholar wrote in his At-
Dr. Zaki Mubarak,
Tasawwuf al-Isla>mi, vol 2, p. 23: The connection of Tashayyo
and Tasawwuf is that, Ali (r) is divine to the Shias, and Imam
to the Sufis.
By the seventh century Hijri, the Ba>ti} niya, by virtue of
these innovative interpolations, had succeeded in transforming
the very heart of Tasawwuf in such a way that the words
Tasawwuf and Tashayyo became interchangeable. Hence,
Haider Ali A<mli writes in his tafsir Bah}r al-Abh}a>r:
Tasawwuf t}ari>qa-e Murtazawi ast
Tasawwuf o Tashayyo yak mani> da>rad

Tasawwuf is the tariqah of Murtaza

Tasawwuf and Tashayyo mean the same thing
Murtaza in Persian or Murtad}a in Arabic is the
appellation of Syyeduna Ali (r). The same author writes in his
discussion of wila>yah: Wila>yat or authority is a gift of God.
The proof of it can be found in verse 44 of Sura Kahf. So, the
authority is invested in Muh}ammad Mus}ta} fa (s), Ali, Fat}ima
and the rest of the eleven Imams including the one who is in
occultation. The Prophet (s) has said: The first thing Allah

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

created was my Nu>r. And he has said: I and Ali are from the
same Nu>r.1

    [ 8   
  0 There, the (only) protection comes from Allah, the True
One. What the author has derived from this verse is totally wrong.
Certainly he knew enough Arabic to be able to differentiate between
wala>yah (protection) and wila>yah (authority). But he changed the
meaning deliberately. Vesting of authority is not mentioned in the
Qura>n anywhere. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knew that the Saba>i> will one
day ascribe wila>yah to Syyeduna Ali (r), thus elevate him above the
Prophet (s), so He used wala>yah in two places, (the other in 8:72), but He
used wila>yah nowhere, nor has He mentioned Ali (husband of Fatima)
anywhere, nor any event related to him. The above verse is part of the
parable in Su>rah Kahf in which the rich man was given gardens and
wealth, but when he became arrogant his property was destroyed, and no
one could rescue him from the calamity. Then Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
declared that protection and help is in His hands alone; and He is the
Abiding Truth.
The verse in question has nothing to do with wila>yah, let alone wila>yah
of Syyeduna Ali (r). The Saba>i> first opened the door of fanciful
interpretations, then made the entire Qura>n a playground for the
children. The examples of this are found in every literature of the
Saba>i>ya, Qara>mit}a and Ba>ti} niya. In the eighth century Hijri,
Muhammad b. Hasan al- al-Aylami Bama>ni, i a Ba>ti} ni, wrote in his Qawa>id
A<l-e-Muhammad that ritual cleanliness means to stay clear of all
religions except Ba>ti} niya; adultery (zina) means to transfer the seeds of
hidden knowledge to one who has not taken the oath (of Ba>ti} niya);
fasting means to control passions from disclosing secrets; salat means to
invite people to the Imam of the time; tayammum means to receive
knowledge from the authorized spiritual master; hajj means to seek
knowledge that takes one to the goal; zakat means to spread knowledge
among those who have the aptitude; etc.

1.06 The Effects of Ba>ti} niya
niya on Tasawwuf

In the foregone we have seen how the Ba>ti} niya had no

qualms in treating the words of the Qura>n as a sport. That
being so, would they hesitate to mutilate Tasawwuf, and not
transform it into a cocktail of kufr and shirk? As a matter of
fact, that was their plan in the first place to lead the Sunnis
astray. The easiest way to do that was to enter their folds in the
guise of Sufis. Tasawwuf was the platform from where they
could captivate eager enthusiasts with their mental gymnastics,
and claim to be divinely inspired. They invented false
narrations to derail people from mustanad (authorized)
teachings with such cunning that the majority did not even
bother to verify the veracity of their claims. In time, their
teachings became inalienable from the wider culture. Quietly,
many of the neo-Sufis looked down on the orthodox Sunni
doctrines as ultra-conservative

Izzud-Di>n Mahmu>d b. Ali Ka>sha>ni
Misba>h} al-Hida>yah wa Mifta>h} al-Kifa>yah (Lamp of
Guidance and Key to Sufficiency) was a treatise on Tasawwuf
written by Izzud-
Izzud-Di>n Mahmu>d b. Ali Ka>sha>ni (d. 735 Hijri). It
has been printed by Sana>i Book Publishers, Tehran, with a
preface written by Prof. Jalaluddin Hama>i. i The preface does
not begin with the usual Bismilla>hir Rah}ma>nir Rah}im > in
Arabic. Instead its Persian form has been used, which shows his
typical Shia mindset. When writing the book, Ka>sha>ni had the
Suhrawardy Awa>rif al-
benefit of using Shaykh Shahabuddin Suhrawardys
Maa>rif. That is why many people thought that his book was
just a translation of Awa>rif al-Maa>rif.
That Ka>sha>ni was a Shia was pointed out by Prof.
Hama>i with pride. He said, each time Ka>sha>ni sent blessings
on the Prophet (s), he rhymed it with blessings on his family as

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

well. Like all Shias, he said, Ka>sha>ni believed that Ali alaihis
sala>m 1 was the only one who acted according to the spirit of
the Verse of the Secret Counsels (A<yatun Najwa, Surah Tauba,
9:78) without blemish, thus achieving supreme success in
clearing himself of any trace of hypocrisy. He said, Ali alaihis
sala>m acted as a mentor in admonishing Syyeduna Umar (r). He
also said that Ka>sha>ni held Ali alaihis sala>m above all else in
rank and honour, but he did not want to express it openly.
All these evidences prove that Ka>sha>ni was a Ba>ti} ni
Shia. However, by way of taqiya (deception) he wrote that a
true Mumin could not entertain contempt for the Companions
because they migrated to Madina for the love of the Prophet
(s), they left behind their blood relations, and they spent their
money for the cause of Islam. On the face of it, this statement
may indicate that he was not among those who would curse the
Companions, but by the same token, he avoided mentioning the
names of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthma>n. That is an indication of
his Shia mentality and deception.
By way of taqiya again, he says: One should take the
Companions as his friends, and stop comparing their merits. If
in his heart one loves any of them more than the others, then
one should not express it openly, because expressing ones
preference is not obligatory. Then he comes out in his true
colours, and says: In the matter of Ami>rul Mumini>n Ali
alaihis sala>m and Mua>wiah, we believe that Ali alaihis sala>m
deserved the khila>fah, it was his right. On the other hand,
Mua>wiah was wrong, he was false, he was a sinner, and he was
not deserving. He whom Allah guides is rightly guided; but he

The Shias use alaihis sala>m (peace be on him, form of respect shown to
the Prophets) instead of radiyalla>ho anhu> [Allah be pleased with him,
form of respect shown to the Companions of the Prophet (s) by the
Sunnis]. They do the same for all Imams as well as for Abu Talib, who
did not even accept Islam.

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

whom Allah leaves to stray, for him will you find no protector
to lead him to the Right Way.1
This veiled vengeance is typical with the Shias, and this
is the point around which they have fed their resentment, sowed
seeds of discord, perpetuated the division in the Ummah, and
waylaid innocent Muslims into fallacious doctrines and
practices. Indeed, Tasawwuf has been the vehicle to achieve all
that. Ka>sha>ni did use Sufi cloak to give vent to his preferences.
It will not be out of place to highlight here the
consensus among the Ahle Sunnat on matters relating to the
merits of the senior Companions of the Prophet (s). From the
first century Hijri, there has never been any disagreement
among the Ahle Sunnat that Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) was the
most prominent of all the Companions in excellence, perfection
and piety. In fact, his excellence is regarded as the highest
among all human beings after the Prophets and Messengers.
>zi has said this in his Kita>b al-
Imam Fakhruddi>n Ra>
Arbai>n, p. 464.
Imam Najmuddi>n an-an-Nasafi said the same thing in his
Aqaid-e-Nasafi (English translation, p. 141), and added that
the next in greatness was Syyeduna Umar (r).
Imam Kama>luddi>n b. al-
al-Hama>m said the same thing in
his Kita>bul Masa>irah, p. 312, that the excellence of the four
Companions was in the order of their Caliphate; first Abu Bakr,
then Umar, then Uthma>n, then Ali. He goes on further to point
to a Hadith in Bukha>ri, narrated by Muhammad b. H{anafiyah,
who said: I asked my father Ali: Who was the best after the
Prophet (s)? He replied: Abu Bakr.
After giving the same views, Maulana Muhammad Idri>s
>ndholwi wrote in his Aqa>idul Islam that Imam Dhahabi (r)

%5? # T4 v'   5 \
 $ 6@ )  d
8 64 5 -A     A @   5 A 8 64 Su>rah Kahf, 18:17.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

had pointed to a Sah}ih> } Hadith in which Syyeduna Ali (r) has

said: Words have reached me that some people regard me as
better than Abu Bakr and Umar. If I find anyone doing that I
will regard him as a slanderer, and I will give him the
punishment that a slanderer deserves.
This subject has been treated at a much greater length in
the Maktu>ba>t of Mujaddid Alf Tha>
Tha>ni and in Qurratul Ainain fi>
Fad}i>latish-Shaikhain of Shah Waliullah.
Waliullah However, the real
merit of a person lies in his being accepted by the enemies of
Islam. Below is an excerpt from Sir William Muirs Muir The
To accept the truth of the Prophet (s) became Abu
Bakrs second nature. When his Master died, the disciple
dedicated his life in completing his mission. This sentiment of
devotion transformed the soft and conciliatory nature of Abu
Bakr into such courage that among all the followers of
Muhammad (s), he became the most trustworthy, most
steadfast and most resolute.
In his heart, Abu Bakr had no concern for personal
accolade. He did hold the highest ruling authority, but he used
that authority for the well-being of Islam and the Muslims. The
secret of his power and majesty was rooted in his unflinching
faith in the genuineness of the Prophet (s). So, he used to say:
Do not call me the Khali>fah of Allah, for I am simply a
Khali>fah of the Prophet (s). I have asked only one question all
my life: What was the command of the Prophet (s) in this
matter, or what would he have done in that matter?
Never in his life he wavered from this stance in the
slightest. With this zeal of absolute sacrifice, he stamped out
successfully the mischief of apostasy. Although he ruled for a
very short period, no one among the Companions of
Muhammad (s) was a greater benefactor of Islam than Abu
Bakr. The highest regard he had for the Prophet (s) was itself an

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

infallible evidence of the truth of the mission of the Prophet (s).

That is why I have treated his life and character in such details.
If Muhammad (s) was not true in his claims, then he could not
have earned the companionship of a highly intelligent,
intelligent, wise and
judicious man like Abu Bakr.
This last sentence is of paramount importance,
considering it is coming from someone who was not a friend of
Islam, nor was he concerned about the welfare of the Muslims.
It must therefore be added that perhaps no other non-Muslim
has ever regarded Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) as highly as Sir
William Muir.
All these arguments expose the falsity of Ka>sha>nis
stand that no one among the Companions be regarded as better
than others. This is against the accepted consensus of the Ahle
Sunnat. It can be concluded from this stance of Ka>sha>ni that he
was a Shia in disguise, and was trying to influence people with
unorthodox ideas.
Then he advises that if one happens to love one of the
Companions more than the others, he should keep it a secret.
Here, Ka>sha>ni exposes himself even further. To hide ones
doctrines and preferences is not recommended in Ahle Sunnat.
It is typically a Saba>> i> practice.
The attitude Ka>sha>ni expressed for Mua>wiah (r) is not
the way of a Sunni. Only those whose heart is full of hatred and
falsehood can stoop so low. Whenever he has mentioned Ali or
Hasan or Hussain, he has used alaihis sala>m for them. This is
not a Sunni practice. His contempt for the Companions is also
evident from the fact that he uses rahmatullah alaihe for saints
like Junaid and Bayazid, but does not use radiyalla>ho anhu> for
Ka>sha>ni further says that Ali (r) had advised Umar (r)
to adopt abstinence and piety. It is a dubious statement because
he has not mentioned the source of this report. Also from

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

rational point of view it is a tall tale because Syyeduna Umar

(r)s abstinence and piety was certainly a model for even
Syyeduna Ali (r) to follow.
In an astonishing passage, Ka>sha>ni writes: Once
Hussain b. Ali asked his father: Do you love me? He replied:
Yes. Then Hussain asked again: Do you love Allah? He
replied: Yes. Hearing this, Hussain said: How impossible!
How could two loves be gathered in one heart. Ali began to
weep. Then Hussain said: O my father! If you were asked to
choose between rejecting iman and my assassination, which one
would you choose? Ali said: I would choose assassination
over iman. Hussain said: Rejoice, my father, because that is
love and this is affection. Prof. Hama>i did not reject it, nor
did he say that it was a weak narration. He simply said its
source was unknown.

Muhammad Uthma
> Ansa>
>ri Naqshbandi Ja>landhari
One such Sufi treatise was Muh}abbat-e-Ila>hi (Love of
God) written by Muhammad Uthma> Uthma>n Ansa>ri Naqshbandi
andhari It was translated by Muhammad Sulaiman Gila> Gilani,
who wrote in the Translators Preface that the author was first
initiated in the Qa>diriya Sufi order by Shaykh Jalaluddin
Tha>nesari. Then he received authorization from Khwaja
Muhammad Ishaq in the Naqshbandiya Sufi order. He spent the
last stage of life in the service of Khwaja Ba>qi-billah (d. 1012
Hijri). It means he was a co-disciple of Mujaddid Alf Tha>ni. He
died in the first half of the eleventh century Hijri. Nothing more
is known about his life.
The learned translator has pointed out each and every
weak Hadith quoted by the author. In this connection, he has
emphasized that many doctrines have been introduced in
Islamic Tasawwuf from foreign sources. The students therefore
should accept the beneficial advices of the Sufis, and leave out

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

the ones that are wrong. True religion (di>n), he said, is not the
books of the Sufis, but the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the
Prophet (s). He said that the scholars of Hadith can be divided
into three categories. First, those who are foremost in
collecting Hadith, as well as foremost in critically assessing the
narrators. Second, those who are foremost in collecting Hadith
but are negligent in critically assessing the narrators. Third,
those who are foremost in critically assessing the narrators, but
are not prominent as collectors of Hadith. By and large, the
Sufis do not belong to any of these categories.1 They are not
critical of anything, nor are they well-versed in the Science of
The same is true for Muh}abbat-e-Ila>hi. Most of the
Ahadith quoted in it are not authentic. Some of them are found
in the collection of weak Ahadith, some are found in the
collection of fabricated Ahadith, yet others are found nowhere.
In order to guide the reader to the actual truth, Muhammad
Sulaiman Gila>
>ni the translator, has added an appendix to the
book, where he has discussed the merit of each narration. Here
is an example:
In one of the stories, an attempt is made to establish
the Prophet (s)s affection for the Ummah. But the way it is
done is certainly not correct. It contains elements that are
against the Shariah. It says that the Prophet (s) used to always
pray all night, and would remain busy in interceding for the

Ibn Jauzi has been critical of many Sufi literature because of this
shortcoming. For instance, he has shown great respect for Kashful
Mah}ju>b (Revelation of the Veiled) and its writer Ali Hujwiri (r) (990-
1077), but he has pointed out that the book contains some weak Ahadith.
Jilani Ghunyah at}-T{al> ibi>n (Provision
The same is true for Abdul Qadir Jilanis
for Seekers). It contains many weak (D{ai>f) and some fabricated
(Maudu>) Ahadith. The Sufis did not take note of these adulterations,
hence did not care to weed them out. Even the Maktu>ba>t of Mujaddid
Alf-Tha>ni has not been left untainted. It contains weak Ahadith.
Asma>ur-Rija>l: Biographical evaluation of the narrators of Hadith.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Ummah. It so happened that one night he was overcome by

sleep. He received a divine message that he should not have
slept, and as a punishment for this mistake, his entire Ummah
will be thrown in the hell-fire. Upon hearing this, the Prophet
(s) went out of the town. When he did not return even after
three days, his Companions got worried. They went to Ummul
Mumini>n Ayesha (r), and asked her where the Prophet (s) had
gone? She told them the circumstances in which the Prophet (s)
received the Revelation, and that since then he had not returned
home. So the Companions went out of Madina looking for the
Prophet (s). They found a shepherd, and asked him if he had
seen the Prophet (s)? He said: For three days now my flock has
stopped grazing. They remain facing that hill, from where the
sound of a painful cry can be heard.
The Companions rushed to that hill, and found the
Prophet (s) in prostration on the ground. The soil around him
was all mud by virtue of the tears flowing from his eyes, and his
face was covered in that mud. He was sobbing uncontrollably
while praying without let-up for the emancipation of his
Ummah. The four Caliphs in order of their seniority pleaded
with him one by one to raise his head from prostration. They
said: We have dedicated all our good deeds for the
emancipation of your Ummah. Syyeduna Uthma>n (r) also
added: I have also dedicated the reward of collecting the
Qura>n for your Ummah. But the Prophet (s) said to all of
them: This is not enough for my Ummah. Allah has already
declared that He will send my Ummah to Hell, how could I then
trust in your assurances? The Companions were thus
disappointed. They sent someone to Syyedatuna Fatima (r). She
came running, and pleaded with the Prophet (s) to return home.
She too pledged to dedicate all her good deeds for the benefit of
the Ummah. The Prophet (s) gave her the same reply.
Disappointed, she removed her veil, and fell prostrate on the
ground praying to Allah with tears flowing from her eyes. After
a while, Jibrail (a) arrived with the good news of the

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

emancipation of the Ummah of the Prophet (s), and said: Allah

has forgiven the Ummah in honour of the tears of Fatima (r).
She had prayed for the Ummah only. Had she prayed for the
entire mankind, Allah would have accepted that too, and would
have forgiven the entire mankind. After that the Prophet (s)
returned home happily with all his Companions.
The translator then goes on to point out some errors in
this story:
A. The Prophet (s) never spent the whole night in prayers.
He would spend half the night in prayers and the other
half sleeping. This is what he was commanded by Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> in Surah Muzzammil. How could we
think that the Prophet (s) defied the limits set by Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> Himself?

B. If the Prophet (s) fell asleep, i.e. he could not control his
sleep, why should the Ummah be punished for that?
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has said that no one will bear the
burden of other peoples sins.
C. Syyeduna Uthma>n (r) did not collect the Qura>n during
the lifetime of the Prophet (s).
D. Syyedatuna Fatima (r) removed the veil from her head
and went into prostration. How was that permissible to
her in Shariah? According to Hadith, a woman
uncovering her head draws the curse of the angels.
Hadith also states that a mature womans prayer is not
accepted if she does not cover her head.
E. The Prophet (s) kept weeping for three days, but Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> did not honour his tears. However, He
honoured the tears of Syyedatuna Fatima (r). Moreover,
if she had prayed for the entire mankind, Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la> would have accepted that too, and would have
forgiven everyone including the kafiru>n and mushriku>n.
On the other hand, Syyeduna Ibra>hi>m (a) prayed for the

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

salvation of his father, but his prayer was not accepted.

Syyeduna Nu>h (a)s plea for his son was not accepted.
The Prophet (s) offered jana>za (funeral prayer) for
Abdullah b. Ubayy, i.e. prayed for his forgiveness, but
he was not forgiven, instead Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> said:
Even if you ask for his forgiveness seventy times, I will
not forgive him.
F. At the beginning of the story it is claimed that this
Hadith is accepted by all scholars of Hadith. But the
truth is that this narration is not found anywhere in the
reliable collections of Ahadith.
G. Historically, it is not proven that the Prophet (s) ever
spent even a single day outside Madina alone.
In the light of the above criticism, it is clear that the
story has been concocted by a Ra>fid}i Shia in order to bring
home to the reader the lofty position of Syyedatuna Fatima (r).

The Qalandariyah
Qalandariyah Sufis
As indicated in an earlier chapter, the qalandars
(mendicants who lived a bohemian, vagrant life) used to roam
around from village to village and from town to town. They
excelled in impressing the simple folks with all forms of hocus-
pocus in the name of miracles, and thus were regarded as people
of high spiritual standing who presumably remained totally
absorbed in the thoughts of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Their stories
and exploits are recorded in many collections. One such
collection is the Tali>ma>t-e-Qalandariyah (Teachings of the
Qalandars) written by Shah Muhammad Taqi Haider Qalandar. Qalandar
It contains inauthentic and unacceptable stories of
Qalandariyah Sufis, reminiscent of Shaykh Fariduddin Atta>rs
Tadhkiratul Awliya in which most of the stories are not backed
by credible authorities. People refrained from questioning the
authenticity of these stories because of the high esteem in

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

which Atta>r was held. As a matter of fact the entire nation had
given up on research and inquiry in both the domains of Fiqh
and Tasawwuf. So the field was left open at the mercy of story-
tellers and spiritual boasters.
In the writings and sayings of the Sufis, as well as in
their stories and biographies, the use of isna>d (authentication)
is conspicuous by its absence. It is said are the three magical
words used to begin a story. Anything written after that is
digested without any challenge be that a supposed reference
to the Qura>n, or Hadith, or History, or common sense. No one
would even think of asking about the sanad (authority).
Shah Muhammad Ka>zi} m Qalandar (1158-1221 Hijri)
was acclaimed as an a>rif billa>h (one who has attained gnostic
knowledge of Allah). In his story in the Tali>ma>t-e-
Qalandariyah, he is said to have written a letter to his full
brother advising him to repeat Na>d-e-Aliya (chanting the name
of Ali for help) thousand times before dawn.
In an earlier chapter, it has been mentioned that the
source of Na>d-e-Aliya is a huge fabrication by the Shias. They
say that during the Battle of Tabuk, Archangel Jibrail (a)
advised the Prophet (s) to call on Ali (r) for help, who they say
is the manifestation of great secrets (Maz}harul Aja>ib). This is
a lie and a calumny on the Prophet (s). Ka>zi} m Qalandar, who
was an a>rif billa>h, should have known that no battle took place
at Tabuk, that Syyeduna Ali (r) was left behind to look after
Madina, and that for the Prophet (s) to seek help from anyone
other than Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> would be an unforgivable sin.
Still, he advised his brother to chant Na>d-e-Aliya, and since he
was an a>rif billa>h, no one ever thought of opposing him. Allah
only knows how many Muslims have thus been led astray by
these a>rifs. Indeed, once they had invented the idea that the
wila>yah of Ali (r) was higher in rank than the risa>lah of the
Prophet (s), nothing was stopping them from going out and
preaching the idea for public consumption.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Shah Tura>b Ali Qalandar was an ambassador of the ruler

of Ayodhya. He wrote to Ami>r Ashiq Ali Khan Bahadur: It is
said that a neighbour of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti was his co-
disciple, i.e. he too was a disciple of Khwaja Uthma>n Haru>ni.
When he died, Khwaja Chishti joined the funeral procession,
and after his neighbour was buried he sat in meditation at his
grave. After a while, he went pale all of a sudden, but recovered
soon. Someone asked him what happened. He said: After he
was buried, the angels of punishment arrived. At the same time
my Shaykh (Khwaja Uthma>n Haru>ni) also arrived. He slapped
the faces of the angels, and told them not to punish him because
he was one of his disciples. The angels received a message from
Allah to tell the Khwaja that his disciple had lived a life of
disobedience to his Shaykh. The Khwaja said: Yes, you are
right. But he took me as a mentor. Hearing his reply, the
angels were ordered to let go of the disciple, and leave him in
the care of his Shaykh who will look after him from now on.
It seems that the safety of the disciple lies in the
intercession of the Shaykh, who holds sway over the judgment
of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. If this is Tasawwuf, and if this is the
function of the Shaykh, then may Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> save
every Muslim from such Tasawwuf and such Shaykhs!
After reading the works of the Qalandars, one thing
comes out in absolute terms. Those who belong to this group
are not just inclined to Tashayyo, they subscribe fully to the
doctrines of the Shias. Hence, Abdur Rahman Qalandar
arpuri wrote to Masud Ali Qalandar Ila>haba>di: Wila>yat is
superior to Nubu>wat, because nubu>wat is bondage, whereas
wila>yat is freedom. No wonder, in the two hundred pages of
Tali>ma>t-e-Qalandariyah, there is not a single mention of
Sa>da>tuna Abu Bakr and Umar (r). It must be remembered that,
it is the ijma (consensus) of the Ahle Sunnat that the foremost
among the Companions were the Shaykhayn (r), i.e. the first
two Caliphs. Anyone reading the audacious conclusion of

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

Abdur Rahman Qalandar La>harpuri may feel disturbed, even

confused. It must be added therefore, that:
1. All the authorities of Ahle Sunnat agree unanimously
that nubu>wat is far superior towila>yat.
2. Wila>yat is a non-Qura>nic terminology, i.e. the word
wila>yat has not been used in the Qura>n even once.
3. Wila>yat is superior to Nubu>wat,1 was an invention by
the Saba>> i>ya, Ba>ti} niya, Isma>i>liya, Qara>mit}a. For
centuries this phrase has been copied into numerous Sufi
works over and over again. As a result, this belief
became part of the teachings of many ignorant Sufi
families (circles) who were largely negligent in Shariah-
compliance, like the Shat}ar> iya, Qalandariya, Mada>riya,
Raushna>i>ya, Rasu>l Sha>hiya, and others. Sufis in general
and these groups in particular had little interest in the
study of Qura>n, Hadith, History or Si>rat [life of the
Prophet (s)]. Hence, the culture of intellectual inquiry
was lost, and in time a deliberate lie became a popular
4. In the light of the Qura>n, every mumin is a wali
(friend) of Allah, and Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> Himself is
the Wali of every mumin. Wila>yat is the fruit of good
deeds after declaring faith in Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and
His Messenger (s). That is why the doctrine of wila>yat
has not been mentioned in the Qura>n, nor is it a special
rank that could be ascribed to any particular person.
Nubu>wat however is a special rank which was bestowed
on chosen people, until the Holy Prophet (s) was chosen
as the last of them.
5. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knew that the worshippers of
falsehood would one day preach that the function of

( al-Wila>yato afd}alo minan-Nubu>wah).


The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

nubu>wat was to take a pledge from the people on the

wila>yat of Syyeduna Ali (r). Had Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
used the word even once in any context, they would
have claimed Qura>nic authority (sanad) for their
deviant contention.
6. Here is how Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has used the word
wali: Allah is the Protector (Wali) of those who have
faith: (and the fruit of that is that) from the depths of
darkness (i.e. of kufr, shirk and bidah) He will lead
them forth into light (i.e. to Qura>n and Guidance).1
7. To become a friend of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, i.e. to
achieve wila>yat, there is no need for an intermediary or
an agent. A mumin can become a wali of Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la> without any agent, just as Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
becomes his Wali without any agent.
8. In one place Qalandar La>harpuri distorted Ru>mi to stress
that wila>yat is the way to salvation, and that nubu>wat is
a shackle. In fact, Ru>mi has said quite the opposite. He
said that nubu>wat shows the way to salvation which can
be achieved by following the Prophets.
The network of the Qalandars covered the entire Muslim
land and beyond. Although large in number, they remained
mainly unnoticed. Their presence hardly ever bothered those
who enjoyed a settled life. Thus, the stories peddled by the
Qalandars were passed down to the four corners of the Muslim
community by word of mouth at lightning speed. Today, we
may well lament that the doctrines of the majority of Ahle
Sunnat are polluted with shirk and bidah because of the
adulterations in the works of Tasawwuf that has been going on
for centuries. Since these works, stories and narrations are
attributed to Sufis of great renown, they have mostly remained

G T0 _ /
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1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

above question and criticism. Soon, the revolutionary spirit that

is needed to constantly build and rebuild Islamic Tradition
evaporated. Without any contest, or almost, it was easily
replaced by a home-grown notion of Traditional Islam
developed by the rather innocuous Qalandars.

The Deviant Sunni Sufis

Shaykh Nizamuddin Chishti Aurangaba>di, i a well-known
Sunni scholar, collected many azka>r (plural of zikr, incantation)
in his Niza>mul Qulu>b (Managing of the Hearts). One such
incantation is known as the zikr of five directions on the right
ya> Muhammad, on the left ya> Ali, above ya> Fatima, below ya>
Hasan, and in the heart ya> Hussain. It is absolutely astonishing
how the Shaykh included such a zikr in his work. This is clearly
against the commands of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, as such it is not
permissible, and is an obvious shirk. Zikr is for Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> alone. So the Qura>n says: And celebrate the Praises of
Allah often (and without stint): that you may prosper.1 The
entire Qura>n is replete with this theme. The message of
monotheism in the Qura>n is absolute. There is no mention in it
in any form which could be construed to mean praise of anyone
else leading to worship. Nothing other than Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> has any strength or power that could be glorified.

Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says: Nor call on any, other than
Allah; such will neither profit you nor hurt you: if you do,
behold! you shall certainly be of those who do wrong. If Allah
touches you with hurt, there is none can remove it but He; if He
designs some benefit for you, there is none can keep back His

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The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

favour: He causes it to reach whomsoever of His servants He

pleases. And He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.1
Tasawwuf is all about erasing the stains of other-than-
Allah from the heart. Any precept that prescribes the
establishment of other-than-Allah in the heart is not Tasawwuf.
Anyone who promotes the so-called zikr of five directions does
necessarily consider other-than-Allah as someone capable.
Hence, he is a mushrik, as simple as that. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
has not asked us to invoke the name of even the Prophet (s), the
best of His creation (khayr-e-khalqihi). In that case, would
others count for anything? True Tasawwuf stresses that the zikr
of other-than-Allah accumulates darkness in the heart instead
of light, and the za>kir (invoker) suffers from disturbance in his
heart instead of tranquility. Behold! it is in the remembrance
of Allah that hearts find comfort.2
Syed Sala>mat Ali Shah Qa> >dri was the writer of H{aqa>iq
wa Maa>rif al-Qadar. A study of this work reveals that most of
the Sufis of Qa>diriya, Suhrawardiya and Chishtiya orders
believe that Syyeduna Ali (r) was the wasi (executor, trustee,
succesor) of the Prophet (s). Such a belief is against the Ahle
Sunnat consensus. It was invented by the Saba>> i>ya, and is the
foundation stone of the belief of all the branches of Shia sects
that emerged from it. In fact, this is what distinguishes the
Sunnis from the Saba>>i>s. Therefore, anyone who entertains this
belief does necessarily consider the first three Caliphs as
usurpers, although he may not say it openly as a measure of
expediency or by way of taqiya. Taqiya is a practice which is

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1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

glorified as permissible deception. To the Shia it is a pious

In the same vein, the above writer started with
benedictions for Syyeduna Ali (r), the ocean of wila>yat, the
successor and trustee of the Prophet (s), and for his progeny
Hasan (r) and Hussain (r). This style of introduction was no
different from the Saba>> i>s, who never failed to mention
Syyeduna Ali (r) alongside the Prophet (s).
Then he narrated the story of one Ami>n Khan, who said:
One night I was sitting in my house, when I saw Qut}bi Abul
Fath} Shah Shamsuddin Shaykh Muhammad Shari> Sharif> Qa>
Multa>ni standing in front of me with his right hand clasped.
Then he opened it, and said: Look! I looked at it. He asked:
What did you see? I said: Muhammad (s). He said: Look
again. So I looked again. He asked: Who did you see now? I
said: Ali (r). He said: Look again. So I looked again. He
asked: Who did you see now? I said: Abdul Qa>dir Ji>la>ni (r).
He said: Now, understand this. It is obligatory for you not to
differentiate between these three. Outwardly Muhammad (s),
Ali (r) and Abdul Qa>dir (r) may seem to be three different
persons, but inwardly they are the same being, completely
identifiable with one another. Blessed is he who believes in
this, deficient is he who thinks that they are three!
In support of this standpoint, they quote certain
Ahadith, but do not mention which collections of Ahadith have
recorded them, or what is their sanad (authorization). These are
the Ahadith:
1. Your flesh is my flesh and your blood is my blood.1
2. I and Ali are (created) from the same nu>r.2

Lah}muka lah}mi wa damuka dami


Ana wa Ali>un min nu>rin wa>hi} din


The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

3. O Ali, I am you and you are me.1

One may well ask Qut}bi Multa>ni: What is the
difference between this doctrine and the doctrine of the
Christians? In a similar vein, dont they also say that the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are apparently different, but
in reality the same? Hasnt Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> said that those
who believe in this, have committed kufr? 2 Then, on what
authority do you say that those who believe in this are
The entire landscape of the Indian sub-continent is
littered with countless shrines of Sufis, which have become
preaching and propagation centers of Saba>> i>ya and Ba>ti} niya.
When we find, that in this day and age, most educated people
have turned away from Tasawwuf considering it as misleading,
we cannot really blame them for it. It will not be unjust to say
that they do not really have the need for this concocted
Tasawwuf, nor do they have the time for it.
A closer study of the Qura>n and the Ahadith would
make it clear that, what Shariah has prescribed as Ih}sa>n, has
become popularly known as (although much-maligned)
Tasawwuf. Actually, Tasawwuf represents self-purification,
which is the purpose of life, as well as the goal of the risa>lat of
the Prophet (s). Tasawwuf requires the seeker to remain within
the boundaries set by the Qura>n in every condition, and
continue to be reinforced by the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) in
every action.

Ana anta wa anta ana ya Ali


[V t  t y
  t     ! 6 89 # : 5 S  They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of
three in a Trinity Su>rah Maidah, 5:73.

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

The Superiority of Syyeduna Ali a Myth

The purest love of the Mumin should be devoted to
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> alone. The Qura>n says: But those of Faith
are overflowing in their love for Allah.1 It is love that inspires
the Mumin to sacrifice his life and wealth in fulfilling the
commands of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. In fact, even in the ordinary
situations of life, to sacrifice willingly for the beloved is
ingrained in human nature. The highest position of honour that
Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) enjoyed among the Companions was his
incomparable munificence in the path of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
The Qura>n testifies to that in these words: But those most
devoted (atqa>) to Allah shall be removed far from it (the Fire);
those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification.2
Scholars of tafsi>r (exegesis) agree unanimously that the word
atqa> (most devoted) in this verse referred to the Greatest
S{iddi>q, i.e. Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r). Then Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
declares that the most devoted (atqa>) is the most honoured
(akram). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah
is (he who is) the most devoted of you.3 This is the reason that
in the estimation of the scholars of Hadith, Tafsir, Fiqh and
Kala>m, Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) was the most honourable among
the Companions; and by extension he was the most honourable
among all mankind after the Prophets.4
>zi Nu>rullah Shustari (956-1019 Hijri; Chief Justice
under Mughal Emperor Akbar; flogged to death by the orders of
Emperor Jahangir; and known to the Shias as the Third Martyr)
wrote in his famous Ah}qa>q al-H{aq (Justification of the Truth):
A Voice called out: O Muhammad, who do you love that he

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The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

could be your companion on earth? I said: I will love him

whom the Mighty, the Irresistible loves, and commands me to
love. Then I heard the Voice saying: O Muhammad, love Ali,
because I love him. And I also love the person who loves him.
Hearing this, Jibrail (a) started weeping, and said: If the
inhabitants of the earth loved Ali as much as do the inhabitants
of the heavens, then Allah would not have created Hell.
This story was concocted by the Saba>> i>ya sect. It was
then impressed on the minds of the Sunnis by the Ba>ti} niya in
the guise of Sufis. As a result, most of them slackened in the
worship of the Divine, and merrily engaged in personality
worship. The center of all attraction and attachment was now a
person, while Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> was relegated to the
The same sentiment was articulated by Shah Tura>b Ali
Qalandar Ka>kori,
ori when he said: Love of Ali is what I am made
of, i.e. my essence is love of Ali. Now it is natural that in the
eyes of the lover, the beloved is the most honoured as well. In
other words, anyone who loves Syyeduna Ali (r) more than
others cannot accept Syyeduna Abu Bakr (r) as the most
honourable. Therefore, one who loves Syyeduna Ali (r) more
than others, is beyond the pale of Ahle Sunnat; and this
constitutes the fundamental difference between Tashayyo (,
the creed of the Shias) and Tasannun (, the creed of the
Hence, Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi has
written in Takmi>lul Ima>n (Completion of Faith): The four
Caliphs are higher in rank over all the Companions, and their
mutual ranks are in the same order as their caliphate, i.e. the
foremost is Abu Bakr (r), then Umar (r), then Uthma>n (r), and
then Ali (r).
The statement of Shustari above suggests that Allah
loves only one person, and he is Syyeduna Ali
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

(r). But the Qura>n says: Truly Allah loves those who fight in
His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented
structure.1 Iqbal, the great Urdu poet, has lamented on this
predicament. He said:
Haqi>qat khura>fa>t me kho gayi
Truth is lost in myths (and nonsense)
Ye ummat riwa>ya>t me kho gayi
This Nation (the followers of Islam)
is lost in legends (and narrations)
Syyed Muhammad Gesu> Dara>z of Gulbarga, Deccan,
South India, wrote in his famous work Jawa>meul Kalim
(Comprehensive Words): The khila>fat (succession) to the
Prophet (s) is of two types the minor is the visible succession;
but the major is the hidden succession, and that is exclusive to
Syyeduna Ali (r). Allah alone knows on what basis Syyed
Gesu> Dara>z discovered this division. Nothing is remotely
connected to this in the Qura>n, nor in the Ahadith. The Qura>n
has mentioned only one type of khila>fat, when it says
(addressing the Companions): Allah has promised, to those
among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will,
of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), as
He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in
authority their religion the one which He has chosen for them;
and that He will change (their state), after the fear in which
they (lived), to one of security and peace.2
That these three promises were fulfilled during the
blessed ruling period of the Shaykhayn [Abu Bakr (r) and Umar
(r)] is a consensus among the scholars of Tafsi>r. Apart from the
earthly succession, the Qura>n does neither mention any minor
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The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

succession, nor major, neither manifest, nor hidden. The

Tasawwuf of the Ba>ti} niya was not even born during the time of
the Companions. It was a product of the Saba>i>ya, Isma>i>liya,
Qara>mit}a and Ba>ti} niya innovations. It is obvious that Syyed
Gesu> Dara>z was deeply influenced by the Ba>ti} niya, which is yet
another evidence how a great number of Sunni Sufis had
digested Shia doctrines in the name of Tasawwuf.

The Departure from the Qura>

Since the source of the basic doctrines of the Ba>t}iniya is
not the Qura>n, they undertook a strategy of estrangement of
the Sunnis from the study of the Holy Book. The first step in
achieving that was to don the cloak of Tasawwuf in order to
slowly alienate the Sunnis from established beliefs and
practices. The second step was to invent Numerology and
ascribe it to Syyeduna Ali (r). Every number was described as
the embodiment of specific effects. Amulets and magical spells
were written and distributed. Presently, the people became
devoted to these practices. Qura>nic verses were presented in
numerical diagrams, and special powers were ascribed to these
diagrams. Soon, Tasawwuf and Talisman became inseparable.
While the Companions (r) acted on the instructions of the
Qura>n, these Muslims started to use Qura>nic verses as
In 1337 Khorshedi (Iranian calendar), Tehran published
a Qura>n in which numerous pictorial representations of verses
were given from page 102 to 110. Extravagant claims were
made that Hell-Fire would be made haram for anyone who
would have a single glance at (some of) those pictures. With
prospects like that, who would read the Qura>n, let alone
understand and follow its guidance?
Shah Niya>z Ahmad Barelwi was a renowned Shaykh of
the Chishtiya sufi order. In his Diwa>n, he has written many

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

muna>ja>t (supplications), in which he has mentioned Syyeduna

Ali (r) as the wasi of the Prophet (s), and has sought the
mediation of the twelve imams of the Shias. Outwardly, he was
a Sunni, but inwardly he was a Shia, because regardless of the
supplications, in his entire diwa>n he did not mention Syyeduna
Abu Bakr (r) or Syyeduna Umar (r) even once. As a result of all
these covert activities, there are today a large number of Sunnis
who hold Sa>da>tuna Uthma>n, Amr ibnul A<s and Mua>wiah in
contempt. There are too many other books which people keep
in their possession with pious intentions, and unwittingly
influence other people with spiritually injurious claims reported
in those books. Some of the books which contain false, weak
and unacceptable narrations are Gulza>r S{a>biri, Mana>qibul
Mah}bu>bi>n, Saba Sana>bil, Tazkiratul Awliya, Syyedul Aqt}a>b,
Miratul Asra>r, Ja>meus Sala>sil, H{abi>bus Sayr, Shawa>hidun
Nubu>wah, Rawd}atus} S{afa> wa Maqs}adul Aqs}a,> Tuh}fatur
Ra>ghibi>n, Bahjatul Asra>r, Zubdatul H{aqa>iq, Jawa>meul Kalim
and the like. Stories contained in these books invariably begin
with the words it is reported, without mentioning the source
or authority.
Seyyed Nasr, a Shia scholar wrote in his Ideals
Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
and Realities of Islam: (That) the period of the Mongol
invasion (was) marked by the destruction of Isma>ili power in
Persia. During this period, whose history is not well known,
Isma>ilism went underground and appeared in many places
within Sufi orders. There is in fact a definite coming together
between Isma>ilism and certain forms of Sufism at this time
which, however, has not been well studied. (pp. 159-160). This
is a clear indication that although their political existence came
to an end, the Isma>ilis remained anchored in the Sufi circles in
order to continue the corruption of Sunni Tasawwuf with alien
He wrote further: Twelve-imam Shiism emphasizes
above all else the exoteric (z}ah> ir), and the esoteric (ba>ti} n),

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

aspects of religion and in this as in many other instances, joins

Sufism in its point of view. (p. 160). This division of religion
(in this case Islam) into exoteric (visible) and esoteric
(invisible) aspects is arbitrary, i.e. it is not supported by the
Holy Scriptures. The assertion that Shiism joins Sufism in this,
in reality points to that brand of Sufism which is created and
nurtured by Shiism itself, in order that Shiism can show that
it has an acceptance within the higher echelon of the Sunnis.1
The aim of this premise is spelt out in a subsequent statement
which says: In this relation (i.e. of z}ah> ir with ba>ti} n) their lies
the SECRET of the necessity for the existence of the IMAM. IMAM
(p. 160). A Muslim believing in this can be called anything but
a Sunni. This is a pure speculation, and not divine knowledge.
Only the Prophets brought divine knowledge, and they did not
keep any secret from their audience.
Building further on these leading (suggestive) premises,
Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote: He [the Prophet (s)] was both the
exoteric and esoteric source of the revelation but in his function
as revealer of Divine legislation he represents the exoteric
aspect. After him there MUST be those who INHERITED his
esoteric function and whose duty it is to expound the inner
meaning of the Divine Law. (pp. 160-161). This is a logical
compulsion in order to expand on the idea of the Imam who

It must be stressed here that the profession of a Sufi is simply a more
intimate commitment to and application of Islam. Sufis are not a sect
within the Sunnis. After they have put their absolute trust in the
knowledge of Ghaib given in the Qura>n, they do not indulge in
metaphysics or any other human effort to know Reality. However, the
misgivings people have about the Sufi is because of the deviant doctrines
and practices that have crept into Tasawwuf from sources other than the
canonical Scriptures. Note: Ghaib or the Invisible includes the
knowledge of God, history of creation and human past, life after death,
and the principles that run the physical, moral and spiritual world
embodied in the Will of God.

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

would supposedly fill the vacuum after the door of risa>lah

(sending of Prophets) was finally closed.
As has been seen before, new non-Scriptural words were
then coined, viz. one, wila>yah for the presumed function of the
Imam; two, wasi or inheritor to describe the connection
between the Prophet (s) and the Imam; three, Seal of the Saints
as a parallel concept to Seal of the Prophets; and finally, four,
the source of knowledge of the Imam being equally divine as
that of the Prophets. That accepted, the Shia-ized Sufi went the
full distance. He concluded that the Imam was greater than the
Prophet (s), because firstly, being ba>ti} n in nature, the Imams
knowledge was qualitatively superior, and secondly, having
taken over from the last Prophet (s), his role (FUNCTION
according to the Shias) was permanent and covered a far wider
space and time in the rest of human history. The story did not
end there. The Shia cosmology was not yet complete without
the last building-block, i.e. a claim that the Imam was a
manifestation or incarnation of the Divine. As a speculative
support to this idea, Seyyed Hossein
Hossein Nasr writes: In Sufi
metaphysics, however, the Divine Essence (al-Dha>t) is
Absolute and Infinite above all determinations,1 even that of
Being, which is its first self-determination and the Principle of
creation. Isma>ili doctrine thus joins Sufi metaphysics2 and
Please see Section Three of this work, viz. Tasawwuf and Perennial
Philosophy, for an explanation of the Six Determinations or Six Descents
or Tanazzula>t al-Sittah. It is rather long and complicated, but without an
exposure to that, this passage from Seyyed Hossein Nasr will remain
There is no such thing as a Sufi metaphysics. A Sufi is simply a
practitioner of Islam in the highest meaning of the word. He has nothing
to do with metaphysics, which is nothing other than speculative inquiry
into the nature of Reality, and not an interpretation of the Scriptures.
Hence, what is said here could be rephrased to say: metaphysics that
was manufactured by the so-called Sufis who were under the tutelage of
the Shias. Indeed, just as the Shia ideology has no basis in the
Revelation, so is Shia Tasawwuf a product of Metaphysics.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Oriental metaphysics in general by considering the Supreme

Principle to be at once Being and above Being.1 (p. 169).
Religion and the Teachings of the Ba>ti} niya is an
authoritative work of Prof. Mirza M. Saeed.Saeed He wrote: In the
guise of Sufis and Dervishes, the Isma>ili preachers won the
heart of the common people. Some of their groups who started
new Sufi orders, for example, the Bekta>shi in Anatolia, and the
Nu>r Bakhshi in Kashmir, were actually offshoots of the
Ba>ti} niya school of the Shias. It can be said with conviction that
taking advantage of the popularity which they enjoyed in the
twelfth to fifteenth century in Iran and other places, they were
able to transform the aspiring Sufis to the Shia doctrines and
practices. (p. 328).
Mullah Ali Qa>
Qari>ri (d. 1605), the famous Hanafi jurist and
scholar of Hadith, Tafsir, Language, History and Tasawwuf,
wrote in his Mawd}ua>t:
01. Ibn Ishaq, the first compiler of the biography of the
Prophet (s) was a Shia, that is why he included many
narrations which would defend his sectarian views. For
instance, the story of unhinging the door of Khaybar.
02. I was a hidden treasure; I loved to be known; so I
created the Creation, is not a Hadith.2 Most Sufis think
it is a Hadith. The fact is that Sufis in general, and poets
and lovers in particular are not scholars of Hadith.

A comfortable transition into Immanence as well as Syncretism. Please
see Section Two of this work, viz. Tasawwuf and Eclecticism for more
on Syncretism. Here, Being" is equated with z}ah> ir (after
Determination), and above Being with ba>ti} n (before Determination).
Please see Tanazzula>t al-Sittah in Section Three.
Kunto kanzan makhfi>yan, fa-ah}babto

an orafa fa-khalaqtul khalq.

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

03. It is wrongly reported by the Historians that after

getting elected as the Caliph, Syyeduna Uthma>n (r) was
unable to give the inaugural khut}bah (sermon).
04. Allah was, and there was nothing beside Him, is not a
Hadith either.1 However, it is a genuine deduction from
the Words of Allah in the Quran.
05. Scholars of Hadith do not agree that the great Sufi saint
Hasan al-Basri (r) ever met Syyeduna Ali (r), and a
transfer of knowledge took place from the later to the
06. It is narrated that during mira>j, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
gave the Prophet (s) a khirqah (patched garment of the
Sufis denoting saintliness), and asked him to give it to
the Companion who was capable of upholding its
dignity. One by one, the Prophet (s) asked Abu Bakr
S{iddi>q (r), Umar Fa>ru>q (r) and Uthma>n Ghani (r): If I
give you the khirqah, what would you do? Their
answers could not satisfy the Prophet (s). Then he asked
Syyeduna Ali (r), and was satisfied with his answer. So
the Prophet (s) gave the khirqah to Syyeduna Ali (r).
This is a totally false narration. It is fabricated by the
enemies of the Companions (r).
07. It is reported that once Syyeduna Ali (r) was about to
miss his Asr prayer, so the Prophet (s) commanded the
Sun to stop going down allowing Syyeduna Ali (s) to
complete his prayer. This is not true at all.
08. There is a Shia Tradition that after the Farewell
Pilgrimage, the Prophet (s) made a public
announcement, saying: Ali is my successor. This is
baseless and absolutely false.

Ka>nalla>ho wa lam yakun maahu> shay-un.


The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

09. There is a Tradition that the Prophet (s) advised Ummul

Mumini>n Ayesha (r) not to go out in a campaign
against Ali. Then he advised Syyeduna Ali (r) to take
matters lightly if Ayesha (r) came out against him.
This is a lie and a calumny, and is manufactured by
those who hold Ummul Mumini>n Ayesha (r) in
10. The belief that the Prophet (s) taught Syyeduna Ali (r)
some secret knowledge, which he did not teach anyone
else, is totally wrong.
11. In support of the imaginary excellence of Syyeduna Ali
(r), the Rawa>fid} (the twelve Imam Shias) have collected
more than three hundred thousand reports.

The Lure of Numerology

Questions may be asked at this stage: Why the Ba>ti} niya
took recourse to the Science of Numerology? The answer is
simple. This is the easiest and quickest way to impress on the
minds and hearts of the gullible without going through
intellectual whys and wherefores. Here are some examples:
1. The supposed twelfth Imam of the Shias is reported to
have been born in 256 Hijri. The naive Muslims were
told that the number for Nu>r is 256, therefore, the
twelfth Imam is all Nu>r. It means, instead of intellectual
reasoning, the proof of his spiritual status is supplied by
having recourse to the mytery of numbers.
2. The Arabic form of Bismilla>hir Rah}ma>nir Rah}im > has 19
letters. Therefore, 19 is a blessed number. Thus, for the
Saba>> i>ya the number of days in a month is 19.
3. Because 9 is a perfect number, any town where 9 people
become Bahais, they are allowed to form a Bahai

1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

4. In 1261 Hijri, Baha>ullah, the originator of the Baha>i

religion in Iran, assumed the title of Z{ahu>rul H{aq
(Manifestation of the Truth). The evidence he proffered
was that the number for Z{ahu>rul H{aq is 1261.1
5. The number for H{ayy (the Living one of the names of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>) is 18. Therefore, the 14 Innocents
and the 4 Ba>bs are alive, they are not dead.2
Such was the environment created by the Ba>ti} niya
among the Muslims. A recourse to Philosophy was their
mainstay in constructing religious and spiritual concepts. In
this exercise, they borrowed heavily from non-Islamic sources,
for example, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who based his
philosophy on the study of the mystical application of numbers.
It was he who developed the idea that 9 was the most perfect
Be that as it may, it is a malady that, in general the
Sufis do not look at the Ahadith critically. Therefore, they do
not make a distinction between a Hadith and the sayings of
important personalities (professed or real). To make matters
worse, a culture has developed within the Sufi circles, in which
it is deemed as bad manners to question or criticize the sayings
of their elders. As a result, anything ascribed to them is

The Baha>is in points 3 and 4, and the Ba>bis in point 5 above were not
Muslims. But initially they were, and it was their Ba>ti} niya background
that led them to their eventual renunciation of Islam. The fitnah they
created is a fascinating chapter in the history of the Muslims in Iran. The
Ba>bis were put down in a short time, but their ghost endured in the
Baha>i religion, whose philosophy continued to mislead the Muslim
masses with their preoccupation with numbers.
The 14 Innocents are: the Prophet (s), Ali (r), Fatima (r), and the eleven
subsequent Imams starting with Hasan (r) and ending with Mahdi who,
the Shias say, has gone into occultation. The 4 Ba>bs were the leaders of
the Ba>bis.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

accepted as something infallible, as though their opinions,

views, and interpretations are cast in stone.
Elaborating on this, Syyed Hussain Ahmad Madani
(1879-1957) wrote in his Maktu>ba>t: The Hadith We returned
from a minor jihad to the major jihad,1 is popular with the Sufis
as S{ah}ih> } (authentic). However, H{af> iz} ibn H{ajar Asqala>ni (r)
said that Imam Nasa>i (r) considered it to be the sayings of
Ibra>hi>m b. Ayliyah. He said further that the language of this
saying is not very refined, and that makes it more likely that
these are not the words of the Prophet (s). Moreover, a great
scholar like Shah Abdul Aziz (r) did not find it in all the books
of Ahadith that were current in his time. What is a Hadith of
the Prophet (s) and what is not, should therefore be judged
according to the principles and rules laid down by the scholars
of Hadith. We hold the view that in any field of religious
knowledge, if the judgment of the adept is not accepted on any
issue, then we shall be left with no faith at all eventually,
Shariah will lose its credibility. We do appreciate that the loyal
Sufis are usually driven by good opinion of others. But
normally, they do not have the time to criticize or analyze what
they hear and see, nor are they used to such pursuits. They
simply digest whatever is presented to them. It must therefore
be said that their good opinion of someone is not automatically
a proof, by virtue of which a certain saying should be accepted
as the words of the Prophet (s).
He wrote further: Great spiritual masters like Ba>ba
Fari>d (r) and Mah}bu>b-e-Subh}an> i (r) were ranked very high as
Imams of Tasawwuf. But they were not Imams in the
knowledge of Fiqh and Shariah. Indeed, the Imams in these
fields were Abu H{ani>fa (r), Abu Yu>suf (r) and the rest. So, for
instance, on issues like bowing out of respect ( ) to
kings and other mundane and spiritual high-ups, the words and

Rajana> minal jiha>dil asghare ilal jiha>dil



1.06 - The Effects of Ba>ti} niya on Tasawwuf

practices of these Imams will take precedence. By the same

token, the words, deeds and fatwa of Shaykh Abdul Qa>dir Jila>ni
(r), Junayd Baghdadi (r), Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshband (r) and
Khwaja Muinuddin Ajmeri (r) will not be the last words on this
or any other matter of Shariah. There is no doubt however, that
these personages were lofty mountains in the field of

1.07 Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

Enough has been said so far on the centuries-old

phenomenon of the misinterpretation of Tasawwuf. Indeed,
there have been misinterpretations from within, and there have
been misinterpretations injected from outside. They may have
been deliberate and malicious, or inadvertent and sloppy.
Nonetheless, one gets the feeling that the reader is curiously
waiting with a host of questions to find out the real meaning
and nature of this now-so-elusive pastime called Tasawwuf. For
those who are interested, suffice it to say that tons of books are
available in any language that would satisfy the intellectual
need of the seeker. In addition, there are human teachers, again
almost everywhere, who can dilute the subject-matter, and
make it appetizing according to the aptitude of the seeker.
Therefore, it is proposed here, for the sake of the reader, to
present a very brief expose of what is Tasawwuf, and more
importantly, what is not Tasawwuf.
The etymology or origin of the word Tasawwuf is
irrelevant here, i.e. it is not a matter of concern for the present
discussion. It is enough to know its common-place meaning,
namely, it portrays a simple life which is full of thought
actions and not mere absorption in the world of thoughts.
Simple Life: The accent here is on the ideal of a simple
life, the life of a down-to-earth saintly person a life which is
not oppressive to those who are below the mark in terms of
intellect and achievements, both worldly and spiritual not
oppressive in the sense that it does not boast of an aura that
reminds others of their not-so-worthy class a life which
restores trust in higher values as against vulgar values and
ostentation a life which promotes engagement rather than
alienation and a life spent in the service of mankind on the
one hand, and in giving wise counsel ( irsha>d) to those who
thirst for it, on the other. In the footsteps of the Prophet (s), a

1.07 - Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

simple life is the ultimate weapon to fight, reduce and remove

Actions: A Sufi is a Muslim, and not a hermit,2 much
less a mystic. So he is busy in fruitful actions, not in
withdrawal, isolation or stagnation. His actions are based on
the dos and donts given in the Qura>n, and explained in the
blessed Ahadith of the Prophet (s). As a Muslim, he accepts
that it is Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> who has guided mankind to the
correct and beneficial actions, and it is the Prophet (s) who
taught and trained the Muslims on the best and wisest way of
performing those actions.
Thoughtful Actions: A Sufis actions are not merely
conformist, mechanical, routine, reflexive, habitual or cultural.
Indeed, these are commendable qualities of a loyal Muslim. But
a Sufi is awake to these qualities more intensely and
consciously. So, his actions are not thoughtless actions. He is
ever so conscious that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is watching him,3
so he makes sure that his actions (every thought, word and deed
is an action) are what Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has prescribed, and
are chosen from the examples set by the Prophet (s). He is
worried of his weaknesses. He is weary of himself, lest he ends
up showing disrespect to the Sovereignty of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>. That is his constant fear ( khawf). Hence, he gathers
all his resources to get as close as possible to the standards (

Ad-Di>nun Nas}ih
> a} h. Religion is Advice.

La> rahba>niyyata fil Isla>m. There is no monasticism in


D *&  + x
N, +    Surely Allah (ever) watches over His Servants. Su>rah
Gha>fir 40:44, and many other verses.
 -"0(  1+G z S 4 f
 7 6   But for such as FEAR the time when they will stand
before (the Judgment Seat of) their Lord, there will be two Gardens.
Su>rah Rah}ma>n, 55:46, and many other verses.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

uswah) set by the Prophet (s).1 He aims to make his actions

wholesome, and earn the pleasure ( rid}a)> 2 of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>. That is his constant hope ( raja>). He has not corrupted
his thoughts with alien ideas that are boastfully called
Philosophy or Speculation. He has no need for these spurious
pastimes because he has taken an oath of loyalty to Islam along
with those who believe in the Unseen (ghaib, invisible).4 He
knows that the complete description of ghaib is given by Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> in the Qura>n, so he does not have to mistify it
any further, nor can he be skeptical about it.
The World of Thoughts: It has been stressed many times
in the earlier chapters of this work that Philosophy as a human
effort to know the Reality has never discovered anything
whatsoever. Yes, it has invented its own Cosmology, not one
but many, which have been less effective in removing cultural
boundaries than poetry and fiction. Often it has been too
reckless and audacious in corrupting the revealed doctrines.5 On
the other hand, the Sufi has the Certainty ( yaqi>n) that the

%xb:   # : u  # 7 { z  '    (# 8  : 61 [P 0C
  WP  L    ]  LG >@  <   : 5 S  You
have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful PATTERN (of
conduct) for any one whose HOPE is in Allah and the Final Day, and
who engages much in the Praise of Allah. Su>rah Ah}za>b, 33:21.
% 'r. %#(   '$Y ; f   C @   / |
 # 4 32 q -+    u ) &  8 64 To him who does this, seeking
the GOOD PLEASURE of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the
highest (value). Su>rah Nisa>, 4:114, and many other verses.
%5    1+G W D *& + h # I
8   %  E
 `  . )  & ' @  1+G 32 S   (# 8  : 6@ So, whoever HOPES to
meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his
Lord, admit no one as partner. Su>rah Kahf, 18:110.
 ' q  +   04 Y 8 Su>rah Baqarah, 2:3.
  'A8 DV  1) : >@  A "; # $      q   A & *"-8 3^ #& TI And the Poets It is those
straying in Evil, who follow them. Do you not see that they wander
distracted in every valley? Su>rah Shuara>, 26:224-225. Here Poet
means anyone who creates his own picture of Reality. It includes the
Philosophers and the free thinkers.

1.07 - Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

Qura>n is perfect and complete, implying, that nothing can be

added to it, nor subtracted from it, nor replaced with something
else. However, the rather lengthy discussions in the earlier
chapters have shown, that Muslims, often donned as Sufis, as
well as non-Muslims, have not heeded Allahs open challenge
that no matter what they do, they cannot change an iota in the
Text that He has sent.1 Yes, they cannot change the Text, but
they have the freedom to change the meaning, thereby glorify
themselves as Sufis. Ironically, they may continue to enjoy
their freedom to do so, as long as freedom is still available to
Briefly therefore, it must be reiterated that the only
thing that remained unscathed is the text of the Qura>n. But its
meaning has been a play-ground of the Philosopher-Sufis.2 As
for the Ahadith and History, it has been worse in these fields,
it has been a free for all, as it were. Narrations and facts
contained in them have been overhauled upside down and
inside out.
The Sufi: So, for the Sufi, both the doctrines and the
practices of life are fully spelt out in the Divine message.
Technically, doctrines are the contents of Ima>n (faith), the only
wholesome food for thought.
thought Similarly, practices are the
contents of Isla>m (acceptance of the Divine program), that
must be manifested in action.action Theoretically, the only
distinction a Sufi has over a nominal Muslim is that he goes
one step further. He wants to beautify his thoughts and actions
by adding wakefulness in his servitude ( ubu>diyyah) to

 r @ 
    "; # : 19  0" ; 6 
; "; We have, without doubt, sent down the
Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). Su>rah H{ijr,
A Sufi, just like anyone else, can be a Philosopher. But Philosophy is not
a prerequisite for a Sufi. As a dicipline of thought, Philosophy is useful to
understand Allahs message; but as a tool to discover Allah and His
nature, it is harmful to the pursuits of a devoted Sufi.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and His commands. In this he is guided by

the Prophet (s), who said: Beauty in thoughts and actions (
ih}sa>n) is that you worship Allah as though you are seeing Him;
although you cannot see Him, but (be aware that) He
(nonetheless) is seeing you.1
In this, the Sufi has found the answers to all questions of
life. He does not have to wander in the valley of the Poets and
Philosophers anymore to discover Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and His
true nature. He, the servant ( abd) has been told NOT to
dwell on the Essence ( Dha>t) or Person of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>, the Master ( Rab), like those who have invented the
theory of Six Descents. [Please see Section Three, Chapter
3.08]. The Sufi is happy with that caution. Instead, he has been
asked to dwell on Allahs Attributes ( S{ifa>t) through acts of
worship. As repeated before, the essence of this worship is to
remain aware of the Presence of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, i.e. to
remember Him constantly. This is done through obligatory
prayers ( s}ala>t),2 which are thoughtful actions, i.e. actions
combined with thought not actions without thought, nor
thought without actions. Hence, dhikr takes the form of s}ala>t.
The Sufi Teacher (Shaykh, Master):
Master): At the preliminary
stage of life, a Muslim is given a list of actions. This is called
Islam. To satisfy his curiosity, i.e. to put his mind to rest, he is
then informed of the raison detre, or the core substance, or
justification for these actions. This is called Ima>n. For the
satisfaction of his heart,3 he may then feel the need to embellish
his actions with an attitude that determines the quality or

Al-Ih}sa>n an tabudAlla>ha

kaannaka tara>hu; fa-in lam takun tara>hu fa-innahu> yaraka.

e#: 9  W  ",  !  Aqimis}-S{ala>ta le-dhikri>, establish regular prayer for
celebrating My praise. Su>rah T{a-> ha>, 20:14.

S  T6 K $   # : 9 +  for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do
hearts find satisfaction. Su>rah Rad, 13:28.

1.07 - Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

beauty of these actions. This is called Ih}sa>n. Needless to say,

that the Prophet (s) was the teacher par excellence of all three
levels of the Divine guidance. It is outrageous to say that his
task was limited to only handing in the legislation, and that it
was then for someone else to explain and interpret the inner
meaning, and to facilitate in the struggle to get to the goal.
It is there for anyone to see that the Qura>n contains
more than six thousand verses, of which hardly one hundred and
fifty verses relate directly to dos and donts. The rest, which is
more than ninety-seven percent of the Holy Scripture, relate to
the Signs ( a>ya>t) that confirm its truth, to the path of self-
purification ( tazkiyyah), to the application of wisdom (
h}ikmah), to the ways of dealing with human weaknesses, to the
warnings and good news, to the evidences from history, and to
every other element of social and individual life that would
contribute in building the correct attitude. Lo and behold! the
Prophet (s) did not simply drop the Book into the hands of the
Companions and go home for a quiet time. He took part in
every form of struggle individual, moral, social, economic,
political, military, national and international in order to teach,
to set examples, to interpret, and to facilitate in building
supreme personalities who would carry on the same task
through all generations.1
No wonder then, that the same phenomenon can be seen
in the compilations of Ahadith as well. A very small portion of
Ahadith relate to dos and donts; the rest, a massive collection,
build the attitude of a Muslim, more so the mandatory attitude
of a Sufi who is cognizant of Islam, Ima>n and Ih}sa>n as a

 ;<$   "4 < 1 & 8  [  < 

 -<   <  1 & 8   < '1:  8  0$ 8i  < '  . - 8  < 014 ` LG < '@ 0 L G   :
   & $ A similar (favour have you already received) in that We have sent
among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and
Puri fying you, and instructing you in Scripture and Wisdom
Wisdom, and in new
knowledge. Su>rah Baqarah, 2:151. Also 2:129, 3:164 etc.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

complete and integrated package. In this task, the Sufi is helped

by his Teacher known as the Shaykh, who takes him by the
hand, just as the Prophet (s) did with his Companions.
Undoubtedly, the Prophet (s) was the ultimate al-insa>n al-ka>mil
(the most perfect man). Ideally, the subsequent teachers down
through the ages, are but prototypes of al-insa>n al-ka>mil, to the
best of their ability, that is. Depending on their fira>sah (
insight), they absorb the Prophetic way as much as possible,
and then pass it on to the budding Sufis who have the desire
and aptitude for it.
This is the method Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has put in place
in order to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next.
Is it not true for all other branches of knowledge and skill as
well? Do we not go to the right teacher and the proper school to
learn the desired subject or skill? Indeed, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
has said in the Qura>n: So ask those who possess knowledge if
you do not know.1 Hypothetically, the alternative to this
mechanism could have been for Allah to reveal His message to
each and every individual. Obviously, He has not done that.
Instead, He has chosen His Messengers and their learned
followers for this task, in order to make it easy for all and
sundry. Religion is easy,2 the Prophet (s) has said. It is the
teachers who are there to make learning easy. However, the
proviso is that the teachers should not commit a breach of trust
through their vain sophistications, and through inventing their
own doctrines and practices. Alas, without exception, this
violation is exactly what has taken place throughout human
history, Muslims included.
Both the Sufi teacher and his charge should busy
themselves with the mission of knowing Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>

   & $   - 0:  # : 19  )   QL @ Fasalu> ahl-adh-Dhikre in kuntu>m la> talamu>n.
Su>rah Nah}l, 16:43.
Ad-Di>no yusrun.

1.07 - Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

as He should be known. But unlike the Philosopher-Sufi who

remains devoted to endless speculation, and keeps producing
bewildering literature, the genuine Shaykh uses the Qura>n as
the mirror in which he finds how insignificant he is on the one
hand, yet on the other hand how incomparable a marvel he is.
This is the method that has been recommended to him. The
wise saying, One who has known himself, has known his Lord,
is meaningful in this respect.1
This exercise takes the Sufi through every possible
sentiment and inclination that social situations may produce in
his mind and heart. In the deepest depth of his heart he may be
nurturing a secret desire to show off, he may be quietly pleased
with his intellectual superiority, he may be cleverly disguising
his hypocrisy or vanity, he may be lacking in patience and
contentment, he may have little control on his togue or on
backbiting or anger or pride or arrogance or passion, he may be
a little careless in modesty or indecency, he may be concerned
about his cowardice or malice or hatred or hastiness or greed
and the list goes on. On these and myriad other moral issues,
the Prophet (s) is the only teacher in the entire human history
who gave the best advice to the Muslims, and himself set the
highest standard in practising what he preached. By becoming a
reflection (in the moral sense) of the monumental personality of
the Prophet (s), the Sufi Master worth the name should exude
confidence in the Prophet (s)s teachings alone, and not look for
a mysteriously hidden Imam for any guidance whatsoever.
It must also be added here that the Qura>n has
elaborately given the basic principles that deal with all moral
issues. And the life of the Prophet (s) was a total representation
of those principles, in both their visible and invisible aspects. It
is audacious to say that he left out the invisible or spiritual
aspects of the Islamic practices to those who came after him.

Man arafa nafsahu> fa-qad arafa Rabbahu>.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

The overriding principle though is that S{ala>t as the

THOUGHTFUL ACTION is the chiefest antidote to all moral
imperfections.1 The genuine Sufi Master continues to insist on
perfecting S{ala>t. This is his fine art. This is his creative art. As
an artist, who creates beauty, i.e. who remains busy with ih}sa>n,
his focus is on two fronts. On the spiritual side, he and his
affairs are in the care of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, and on the moral
side, he takes care of the world around him according to the
highest standards of morality that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has
recommended. His link with both the Creator and the Creation,
is regulated and strengthened by S{ala>t.2
The form of his art is simplicity, and not sophistry. He
is not a connoisseur of eye-catching arts and artefacts, nor of
music and poetry which eventually descend into addiction,
meaninglessness, irrelevance, even profanation, and take the
Sufi away from his center of gravity. Hence, the content of his
art is unadulterated truth and wisdom, that is not tainted with
human desire and preference, and does not assume material
form that leads to luxury and decadence.
In summary, the profession of a Sufi master, and the aim
of a Sufi, is to cultivate a harmonious personality, through an
Culture Ih}sa>n is
exercise that may be termed as Personality Culture.
fully integrated in his approach to Islam. On its own, Ih}sa>n is
not an institution over and above the Islam that common
Muslims practise. It is possible that most Muslims are not

  # *:    # : 9  # < 0   3} I

  6 . _A 0 $ W  ",  W  ",  ! 

 -<  6 4 
 '  >   4 ) $ 
$ 4   & 8 (O Prophet), recite the Book that has been revealed to you
and establish Prayer. Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil. And
Allah's remembrance is of even greater merit. Allah knows all that you
Hence, it was through s}ala>t that the Prophet (s) expressed his practice of
ih}sa>n (i.e. Tasawwuf if there is an insistence on this word). He said:

The coolness of my eye has been made in S}ala>t.
Wa joilat qurrato aini fis}-S{ala>h.

1.07 - Tasawwuf the Synonym of Ih}sa>n

consciously attentive to ih}sa>n, but that is a matter of degree not

of kind. In other words, it must be accepted as a fact that every
Muslim is brought up with some elements of ih}sa>n in his
practices. That is why, some sages have lamented that
Tasawwuf was there in practice in the life of the early Muslims,
but the name was a later invention. If that is true, then a
thorough research must be conducted to dig out who invented
this word, and why?
In short, ih}sa>n is the ideal of a complete Muslim. Its
promotion and widespread application in the cultural life of
Muslims has been the ultimate aim of the Prophets and Saints.
Quite naturally, that need evolved into an elaborate institution
of Tariqah which became an open forum in order to teach and
participate in Tasawwuf. Having said that, it must be reiterated
that over the centuries, the same open forum and its apparently
holy intentions were exploited by some deviant sects to
popularize unorthodox doctrines and practices. A Sufi cannot
afford to take his eyes off this irritating phenomenon.
This work therefore, is a caution to the aspiring Sufis,
who wish to restrain rough edges in their personal nature. It is a
caution that they should stay awake to the manipulations of
those whose agenda in life is at loggerheads with the ways of
the Ahle Sunnat.
As a continuation of that awakening, the next two
Sections of this work shed some light on the mindset of the
Eclectic Sufis on the one hand, and those who have joined the
movement of Perennial Philosophy on the other.

Section Two


The Fusion of Eclecticism into Tasawwuf

This brief analysis is written exclusively for

Muslims; i.e. those who are proud to be Muslims
Muslims who are not fanatics, hence do not oppress
anyone; Muslims who have the assurance that Islam
is complete and perfect without having to take
anything from any religion, mythology, philosophy,
or metaphysics; and Muslims who are not patrons of
other ways of life, nor seek to be patronized.

2.01 Tasawwuf as Ih}sa>n

Islam is the religion of Truth. In the form of a Message

it has been handed down to man by the Almighty Creator
Himself. Part of the Message contains guidance in mans affairs
with man, i.e. it gives man true and infallible guidance in his
social, political and economic transactions. Mans response to
this aspect of the guidance determines his moral quality.
Another part of the Message gives him clues about himself in
relation to the position of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, the Creator.
Mans approach to this part of the Message facilitates him to
reach his spiritual potentials. So, for a discerning man there is
guidance in all matters ranging from the most mundane to the
most sublime.
The Message of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is there for
everyone. But most men, even among those who have accepted
this Message, are either contented with the barest minimum
from it, i.e. that which they cannot do without; or are not
capable of appreciating the higher truth and beauty contained in
it. This fact of life is not ignored when the body of Islam is
portrayed as a three-tier representation of the Message, i.e. as
Islam, Iman and Ih}sa>n. Islam requires some basic beliefs and
some compulsory practices. Iman is the essence of beliefs that
lead to conviction. Ih}sa>n is the devotion that opens the ways to
perfection and excellence. The journey into the Message of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is envisaged in the direction implied in the
above representation, i.e. from Islam to Iman, and then onwards
to Ih}sa>n. To wit, Iman without Islam is not acceptable; and
Ih}sa>n not built upon the foundations of Islam and Iman is

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

It could then be said that the question What What is the

Message of Allah?, i.e. What does Allah want us to do?
gives rise to the institution of Shariah or the Law; and the
How best to respond to the Message of Allah?
question How
results in the institution of Tari>qah or the Way. However, this
division is purely theoretical. Needless to say that the questions
what and how go hand in hand in any assignment that man
undertakes. They are integrated, intertwined and inseparable. In
spite of that, quite mysteriously, the two institutions of
Shariah and Tari>qah seem to have existed separately in the
Muslim lands, with specialists operating within both domains.
In an ideal situation, the experts of Shariah, known as
theUlama, are also well-versed in Tari>qah, and are expected to
be quite capable of answering the what, as well as of showing
the how, because the entire body of Islamic scriptures is within
their view. No wonder, the Messenger of Allah (s) has declared:
The Ulama of my people are like the Prophets of the Bani
Isra>il. It is understood that the Prophets not only handed
down the message, i.e. described the task, they showed the way
as well. Therefore, in Islam the Ulama worthy of the name are
the real teachers and leaders of both Shariah and Tari>qah in
every sense of the word.
[Different titles are conferred on the Ulama in different
parts of the Muslim world. In Turkey it is Maula (Master); in
North Africa, Maulaya or Maulayi or Maulay (my Master); in
the Indian sub-continent, Maulana (our Master); and in the
Arab world, Shaykh (Master)].
It is conceivable though that some of the Ulama should
devote themselves more exclusively to the achievement of

2.01 - Tasawwuf as Ih}sa>n

personal excellence, and to the understanding of a more

insightful meaning of the Message of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. In
other words, having fulfilled the requirements of Islam and
Iman in that order, they are now more involved with Ih}sa>n,
since they have the qualification to do so. In some parts of the
Muslim world, the title of Mashaikh (plural of Shaykh) is
solely used for such Ulama the so-called Masters of Tari>qah.
It must be stressed here that the business of Tari>qah
cannot operate independently of the Shariah. The Master of
Tari>qah is bound by the Law, as is any other Believer. If he
does not know the Law, or ignores the Law, or issues his own
law, then he is not a genuine Master.
Historically however, a time came when Tari>qah
emerged as a separate institution with its own structure, rules,
aims and clientele. Often there were signs of deviation from the
common conduct under the pretense of esoteric knowledge, and
exaggerated claims of spiritual power and vision. Nevertheless,
there were many who became the embodiments of the most
profound form of Islam, Iman and Ih}sa>n, and who as true
champions of Islam spent their nights in prostration, and their
days on horseback; i.e. conversing with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
when alone, and dispensing justice when with people.1

Among such names are: Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni)
during the rule of the Mughal emperors Akbar and Jahangir; Shah Jalal
and Khan Jahan Ali during the Muslim rule of Bengal; Syed Ahmad
Barelwi during the British Raj.

2.02 Modern Sufis

But there were, and still are, many Sufis who hide
during the day and indulge in self-praise during the night. They
do not talk of justice; instead, they philosophize and discover
esoteric wisdom in accepting injustice. They do not advocate
the true cause of Islam; instead, they sponsor teachings from
other religions to dilute and suppress the supremacy of Islam.
As a result, when we examine their followers, we find that the
revolution of Islam is forced to take a back-seat in their major
In the recent years, the dominance of the West has
brought its own influence on the way the structure of Islam is
viewed. The words esoteric and exoteric have somehow
surpassed their dictionary meaning of hidden and obvious.
They have assumed technical proportions due to continuous
hammering of these words in the so-called Islamic literature
coming out of the West, and tend to divide the body of Islam
into two distinct classes: lower and higher; ordinary and elite.
Thus, those who have joined the esoteric camp have a sneaky
sense of pride in themselves that their industry is of a higher
value. For them it is a matter of distinction to belong to the
esoteric. Quietly, they look down on others with contempt, who
they think will never understand them. These people of self-
proclaimed higher taste stay away from taking a leading role in
the struggle for Islam. Instead, they ambush intelligent youth
from the ranks of Muslims to stymie any meaningful resurgence
of Islam. By some clever twist of language, they claim to
resuscitate what they assume as Traditional Islam, while their
aim, be it real or inadvertent, is to side-track Islamic Tradition.

2.02 - Modern Sufis

It must be clarified here that the concept of Traditional

Islam views Islam as it has been practised in various parts of
the Muslim world. It thus tends to accept uncritically all the
deviations that crept into the culture and practices of the
Muslims. On the other hand, Islamic Tradition is the standard,
i.e. the Criterion, by which to view, examine and correct any
such deviation.
They boast of knowledge of God as their area of
specialization. It is precisely here that they step out of line.
Instead of embellishing the contents of Islam and Iman with the
Knowledge of Certainty which is expected from them at the
stage of Ih}sa>n, they enter into the world of wild speculations
about the existence and nature of God. As a result, they end up
with doctrines which are at loggerheads with the infallible
principles upon which Islam and Iman are built.

2.03 True Knowledge

We shall return to the subject of doctrines a little later.

At first, it is better to clarify the notion of knowledge. True
knowledge could be nothing other than to know the Will of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Creation is the Will of Allah. When Allah
willed for something, He said to it: Be, and it became real,
existent. What became real and existent is the Creation as we
find it. It is the actualization of the Will of Allah. To know the
Creation correctly through all the branches of knowledge, is to
know the Will of Allah correctly. Any poet or philosopher
describing the Creation using his own imagination can be
praised by the ignorant for his creative art, but not for his
knowledge. Reason being, he does not have knowledge until he
knows the Will of Allah. Suffice it to say that we cannot know
the Will of Allah except through what He has revealed in the
Qura>n. So, a piece of popular knowledge is not knowledge
unless it matches with the Will of Allah revealed in the Qura>n.
Among all Creation, man enjoys a unique position in
that he has been given the ability to will. To enable him to
express his will he is also endowed with a limited form of
freedom, which is not given to others. It is this freedom that
makes him responsible for his actions which are the outward
form of his will. So, what he ought to will and what he ought
not to will in terms of his conduct has also been willed by Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Hence, a description of the acceptable conduct
of man, forms the major part of the Revelation in the Qura>n. In
other words, mans will is acceptable and praiseworthy if it
coincides with the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, otherwise, it is
not acceptable and is considered blameworthy.

2.03 - True Knowledge

Going back to the theme of knowledge, if mans will is

in line with the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, it is based on
knowledge, for knowledge is synonymous with the Will of
Allah as we have seen before. So, a man in the desert whose
desire and effort is to uphold the Will of Allah in his actions, is
a man of knowledge, even if he does not have any accreditation
from a public school. On the contrary, if his will is not in line
with the Will of Allah, it is based on ignorance, no matter how
many tomes of books he has written, or how many people he
has hypnotized with his imposing personality and smooth
speech. [The period of Arab history (as well as human history)
when Islam arrived with the Qura>nic Shariah was designated
as the Days of Ignorance, although the Arabs were not ignorant
of commerce, industry and statecraft, and their poetry and
literature was not inferior to anyone at that time. What they
were lacking so dreadfully was the knowledge of the Will of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.]
Man may will according to the framework of the Will of
Allah given in the Qura>n. Indeed, he will be rewarded for
willing as he ought to will. Still, there is no guarantee that
events will take place according to his will, however legitimate.
This, because Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> may will differently about
the matter, and if He does, then the event will take a different
course. Needless to say, Allahs Will takes precedence over
mans will, just as Allahs absolute Freedom overrides mans
limited freedom. Therefore, man may plan correctly, and he
may also act correctly, yet he has no control on the events that
will take place in the future. To know the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la> in such matters is to be blessed with inspired
knowledge, termed as Ilm Ladunni.

2.04 Mu>sa and Khidr

To illustrate this point, the classic case of Khidr, a great

sage mentioned in the Qura>n,1 may be cited here. While
Prophet Mu>sa (a) was in his company, Khidr scuttled the boat
of a poor man, he killed a youth, and he repaired a wall that was
on the point of falling down but did not seek any wage, i.e.
money that he needed to buy food. As for the boat, he said I
willed to scuttle it in order to save it from being seized by the
king. The youth he killed was rebellious to his parents, so we
willed to exchange him for a more pious son instead.
Underneath the wall there was a treasure that belonged to a
righteous man, and your Lord willed that his sons should take
out the treasure when they were strong enough to do so.
When Khidr said I willed, he had the knowledge of
the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, so he could not will any
differently. When he said we willed, he was inspired with the
Will of Allah, so he became a party to it, and acted on behalf of
Allah in the visible world. When he said your Lord willed, on
the one hand he was asserting that he knew the matter directly
from Allah, and on the other hand he was showing enough
deference to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> so as to quash any possibility
of his being mistaken as divine. The common denominator in
all three events was that the knowledge of Khidr was nothing
but the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
The gift of inspired knowledge is precisely one of the
major aspirations of theUlama and Mashaikh who have
advanced to the stage of trying to perfect the practice of Ih}sa>n,

Su>rah Kahf, 18:65-82.

2.04 - Mu>sa and Khidr

and have become Masters of Tari>qah. Certainly, the story of

Khidr raises their hopes, as does the Hadith which says that
true vision is forty-sixth part of revelation. However, such a
vision does not form part of the Revelation in the Qura>n, to
wit Shariah; nor does the person receiving it become divine
and worthy of worship by any stretch of imagination. Indeed,
those who surrender their will to the Will of Allah, i.e. those
who will according to the Will of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> are the
Awliya, plural of Wali, saint. We may have pious thoughts
about someone, and think of him as a Wali, but only Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knows who is really a Wali. The Masters of
Tari>qah are commonly given that accolade, but this notion is
heavily biased against those who do not operate as Masters.
There is a tacit assumption here that to become a saint one
must be a Master of Tari>qah. All others are excluded with
disdain. Likewise, the disciples of the Masters of Tari>qah
appropriate for themselves a better chance of a vision, because
by becoming a disciple they think they are way ahead of others
in their spiritual progress, although at times they are more
neglectful of Islam and Iman than those who are not initiated
into a Tari>qah.

2.05 Dha>t and S{ifa>t

A third aspect of the Revelation in the Qura>n is about

Allah Himself. He alone knows Himself, we dont. Our
knowledge of Allah is limited to the extent He tells us about
Himself, not what we imagine Him to be. Here again a
distinction has to be made between His Essence (Dht) and His
Attributes (S}ift). What He has told us, is about some of His
Attributes. He has directed our attention to some indications
(a>ya>t) in ourselves and in the Creation around us that would
help us to understand and appreciate His Attributes. His
Essence on the other hand is completely beyond our grasp. No
analogy can comprehend His Essence. Nothing in Creation has
the remotest similarity with His Essence. The language we use
to describe Creation cannot be used to describe His Essence in
any way. What, how, why, where, when, and such other
questions that we use to analyze the essence of Creation and all
the created beings, cannot be used for the Creator, i.e. Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.

This brings us back to the subject of doctrines, because

this is where some of the Masters lose sight of the teachings of
Islam and Iman. They become disconnected from the
knowledge given in the Qura>n, and fall into error. They fail to
distinguish between the Creator and the Creation. They think
Creation is an aspect of the Creator, or a manifestation of the
Creator, or that the Creator is immanent in the Creation,1 or
that the existence of the Creation is an illusion,2 an appearance,
Vide Shaykh al-Akbar Muh}yiddi>n ibn al-Arabi, the original thinker of
Wah}dat al-Wuju>d or the Unity of Existence.
Maya, vide Hindu Cosmology.

2.05 - Dha>t and S{ifa>t

and not a reality. In short, they think that the only existence is
the existence of God. Indeed, the Reality of God is eternal, self-
subsisting. But it is also real that God as al-Badi has created
the world from out of nothing, and has given it its own reality,
albeit derived and contingent. The important matter in this
comparison is that the two existences (i.e. of God on the one
hand and the Creation on the other) do not overlap nor impede
each other. How succinctly the Qura>n has expressed this
absolute separation, when it says: there is nothing (i.e. no
thing) whatever like unto Him,1 or there is none (i.e. no one)
like unto Him.2 This is the Truth. This is the real knowledge
given in the Qura>n. Any philosophy, expression, view or idea
that militates against this plain language is blasphemy.

Su>rah Shu>ra>, (Consultation), 42:11.

Su>rah Ikhla>s}, (Purity of Faith), 112:4.

2.06 Martin Lings on Gods Immanence

Martin Lings (Shaykh Abu Bakr Sirajuddin),1 for

instance, threw caution to the wind when he wrote: The
difference between man and all other creatures is that the latter
merely reflect various Divine Qualities, whereas man reflects
the Divine Essence, which comprises all the Qualities.2 He
arrived at this belief on the premise that man was made in the
image of God,3 a typically anthropomorphic Judeo-Christian
dogma. The Truth, as we have seen above, is that nothing
reflects the Divine Essence, nor mirrors it, nor resembles it, nor
represents it.
It must be stressed again that the separation of Shariah
and Tari>qah is purely arbitrary. Shariah describes the contents
of the three stages of the Islamic Tradition, i.e. Islam, Iman and
Ih}sa>n. Tari>qah digs deep into the wisdom of the same three
stages of the Islamic Tradition, i.e. Islam, Iman and Ih}sa>n.
Tari>qah makes it work. It makes it useful, effective and
practical. Above all, it restores Certainty (yaqi>n) in the heart of
a practising Muslim. Shariah does not come before Tari>qah,
nor does Tari>qah come after Shariah. The Qura>nic words
Shirah (the Law) and Minha>j (the Way) portray these concepts
more appropriately. All the confusion and outlandish claims
involving Tari>qah could disappear if these Qura>nic words ever
regained currency in our life.

A renowned Muslim scholar and Sufi shaykh of the Maryamiyyah branch
of the Shadhiliyyah-Darqawiyyah-Alawiyyah tari>qah.
Splendours of Quran Calligraphy and Illumination. Thesaurus Islamicus
Foundation, 2004.

2.06 - Martin Lings on Gods Immanence

While Shariah at the level of Ih}sa>n is a special

prescription for the adept, Tari>qah at the level of Ih}sa>n enables
him to achieve enlightenment, aynul yaqi>n (Eye of Certainty,
i.e. the direct vision of Certainty), h}aqqul-yaqi>n (the doubtless
Truth of Certainty) and marifah (Gnosis or the complete
appreciation of Reality). Together, Shariah and Tari>qah at the
level of Ih}sa>n provide an umbrella which the adept would use to
protect Islam and Iman. If we still insisted upon Tari>qah as
being a separate enterprise, we would do justice only if we said
that it provided a comprehensive outlook of Islam. In other
words, we would expect it to drag the individual out of his
closet, and make him operational in every affair of the
community in which Islamic principles need to be
implemented. In one word, it could be no less than serving the
interests of the community. This was so beautifully
summarized by Shaykh Muslehuddi>n Sadi al-Suhrawardi (r)
when he said:
T{ari>qat ba-juz khidmate khalq nayst
Not anything, but service to creatures is Tari>qah.
Ba-tasbi>h} o sajja>da o dalq nayst
Not the rosary, the prayer rug, nor the patched rags.
What Shaykh Sadi said was that the man of Tari>qah
(lets say, the Shaykh) at the level of Ih}sa>n is overqualified for
such mundane things as rosary, rugs and rags. He should not
seek recognition in the pettiness of ostentations. He should
come out of his corner, for the world needs his services. He
should gather people under his wings, and keep the door open
for anyone to come to him. Islam is not an exclusive club. The
Shaykhs activities should be above board and absolutely
transparent for anyone to see. There should not be any mystery

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

around him. He should be the first to promote the Prophetic

saying that Allahs blessings are on those who unite in a group.1
This is the First Principle of Islamic Sociology. The Shaykh
should go around and make sure that no Muslim was floating
around without linking himself to a group.

Yadulla>hi Fauqal Jama>ah.

2.07 Islamic Tradition
Tradition V Traditional Islam

The foregone is ideal only if the Shaykh is making

efforts to fine-tune Islamic Tradition. On the contrary, if he is
mystifying the notion of Traditional Islam, he should be put
under the microscope with grave suspicion. Because Traditional
Islam, as we have asserted before, is the way Muslims lived and
understood Islam at different periods and in different countries.
On a positive note, practices were indeed evolved by wise
Shaykhs, and adopted as selective aids in order to facilitate the
seeker to remain focussed. More often than not, these practices
could be called limited at best, and were only a temporary
measure to assist the neophytes in their cultural transition into
Islam. They were nothing more than a list of priorities that
were applicable to an individuals peculiar IQ.
Unfortunately though, such practices became a
permanent feature in the spiritual lives of ordinary Muslims.
The successors of the original Shaykhs were not innovative
enough to advance to the next stage of assimilating higher
goals. Thus, they left their followers to stagnate in their
spiritual quest, often with wrong notions that these limited
practices represented all that Islam had to offer. To them the
original Shaykhs, who were now being regarded as saints, were
beyond reproach and too holy to be questioned.
In short, not everything that became their culture
represented the Straight Path given in the Qura>n and the
Sunnah. True, there have been differences of opinion within the
Muslim communities in many such matters that gave rise to
disputes in which it was not easy to furnish a clear-cut verdict
of right and wrong. These differences were primarily related to

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Bidah or innovations. Some innovations were upheld as

H{asanah or beneficial, while others were denounced as
Sayyeah or harmful, and as such unacceptable. Regardless of
how they were judged at that time, there is no escaping the fact
that as an innovation even the Bidah H{asanah was a new
addition or a new approach to the practices of Islam that should
have been allowed only for a specific time and in a specific
situation. For, if it occupied a permanent place among the
religious and spiritual practices, then that would mean that
Islam was not complete until this practice or method was
included. Thus the antagonists of Bidah H{asanah were partly
justified in their warning that all Bidah lead to heresy.1
Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni (r)2 was strong on this view. Syyeduna Ali
(r) too emphasised, that when a Bidah enters our life, a Sunnah
is sacrificed.
However, a permanent feature in the process of
destabilization has been the direct and indirect infusion of alien
ideas and doctrines into Islam. This process has always been
aided by deviant Muslims on the one hand, and those who
donned the garb of a Muslim on the other. The most dangerous
and damaging idea that has been gnawing at the central theme
of Islam is Eclecticism which promotes a view that all religions

Kullu Bidatin D}ala>lah.
Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni or the Reformer of the Second Millenium was the
appellation given to Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi consequent upon the belief
derived from a Hadith narrated in the collection of Abu Daud that says:
Allah will, on the eve of every century, raise a person in this nation
(Islam) who would renew the religion. In his reforms, the great Shaykh
had to fight a three-pronged attack on Islam the heresies of the Moghul
Emperor Akbar at the behest of his anti-Islamic counsellors; the
insidious manipulations of the Shia Muslims during Emperor Jahangir;
and finally Wah}datul Wuju>d, the pantheistic world-view of some Sufis.

2.07 - Islamic Tradition V Traditional Islam

are equally valid. It has been summarized by a Sufi poet of the

Wah}datul Wuju>d leaning in these words:
Sab ya>r ka jalwa hai
Everything is a manifestation of my Friend;
Ka>ba ho ya but-kha>na
Be it Kabah or the idol-house.

2.08 Frithjof Schuon on Gods Immanence

Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa Nuruddin),1 a modern day

Sufi and a prolific writer of international acclaim, laboured hard
in promoting what he called The Transcendent Unity of
Religions. Presumably, the apparent differences between
religions were simply veils, which when lifted united all
religions on one point. On the basis of that assertion, he then
went one step further and made a bold statement, when he said:
God became man so that man could become god. god The truth of
the matter is that there is a great deal of commonality between
all religions in terms of moral norms and social behaviour. Its
only the small-minded who would quarrel over the visible
differences of food, dress, modes of worship, festivals, and the
like. In themselves these differences do not really mean much,
and therefore are tolerated in a community life without too
much of a fuss. It must however be said that even these visible
aspects do derive their meaning from the central doctrines of
their respective religions. In spite of all that, it is in the area of
the central doctrines that the differences between religions are
real, irreconcilable, and not negotiable.
The Western eclectic Sufis have propounded a new
theory that it is under the divine plan that the world is divided
into distinct regions where particular religions have been
allowed to flourish. Otherwise, they argue, how could these
religions withstand the attacks from other religions for so many
centuries, and survive? This contention militates against the

1907-1998. See worldwisdom.com for a fascinating, and from a Muslim
point of view intriguing, life of Frithjof Schuon. A summary here will
not do any justice to his colourful life.

2.08 - Frithjof Schuon on Gods Immanence

core teaching of Islam, which says Allah sent Messengers and

Books whenever mankind corrupted His guidance, specially the
central doctrines, which relate to the understanding of Allah
Himself. God became man is a Christian belief emanating
from their doctrine of Incarnation. Man could become god is
a Hindu belief of Nirvana, a state of union with God that saves
man from the vicious cycle of reincarnation.

2.09 Rene Guenon on Cyclic Birth and Death

Rene Guenon, an earlier master of the same school of

thought was born in 1886. He became Shaykh Abdul Wahid
Yahya in 1911. He wrote 17 books. It is curious to note that his
Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines was published
in 1921, ten years after he became a Muslim and a Shaykh.
After six more years, in 1927, his second major doctrinal work
under the title Man and His Becoming according to the
Vedanta was published. Stranger than that, in 1929, urged by
some of his collaborators, he gave his agreement to the creation
in France of a Masonic Lodge of traditional nature,1 whose
name La Grande triade (The Great Triad) comes from the title
of one of his books. The first founders of the lodge, however,
separated a few years after its inception. This lodge, belonging
to the Grande Loge de France, is still active. Later he wrote
Symbolism of the Cross (Le symbolisme de la croix) in 1931.
And so the trend continued until The Reign of Quantity & the
Signs of the Times (Le rgne de la quantit et les signes des
temps) was written in 1945. He died in 1951. Wikipedia.
In a striking passage in The Reign of Quantity & the
Signs of the Times, he wrote:
In truth there can be many ends of the world,
because there are cycles of very varied duration, contained as it
were one within another, also because this same notion can
always be applied analogically at all degrees and at all levels;
but it is obvious that these ends are of very unequal
importance, as are the cycles themselves to which they belong;

The meaning and intention of it is anyones guess.

2.09 - Rene Guenon on Cyclic Birth and Death

and in this connection it must be acknowledged that the end

now under consideration is undeniably of considerably greater
importance than many others, for it is the end of a whole
Manvantara, and so of the temporal existence of what may
rightly be called a humanity, but this, it must be said once
more, in no way implies that it is the end of the terrestrial
world itself, because, through the reinstatement that takes
place at the final instant, this end will itself immediately
become the beginning of another Manvantara.
He continued on: While on this subject, there is yet one
more point needing to be explained more precisely; the
partisans of progress have a habit of saying that the Golden
age is not in the past but in the future; nevertheless the truth is
that so far as our own Manvantara is concerned it is in the past,
for it is nothing other than the primordial state itself. There is
a sense however in which it is both in the past and in the future,
but only on condition that attention is not confined to the
present Manvantara, but is extended to include the succession
of terrestrial cycles, for in so far as the future is concerned
nothing but the Golden age of another Manvantara can
possibly be in question; . . .

2.10 Manvantara

In order to understand the above passage, it is necessary

to look into the meaning of Manvantara, a theological concept
developed from Hindu mythology contained in the Pura>nas.
The following summarized description of Manvantara is taken
from Wikipedia.
Manvantara or Manu>vantara,
vantara or age of a Manu>, the
Hindu progenitor of mankind, is an astronomical period of time
measurement. Manvantara in Sanskrit is a combination of the
words Manu> and antara, hence Manu>-antara or Manvantara,1
literally meaning the duration of a Manu>, or his life span.
Each Manvantara is created and ruled by a specific
Manu>, who in turn is created by Brahma, the Creator himself.
Manu> creates the world, and all its species during that period of
time, each Manvantara lasts the lifetime of a Manu>, upon
whose death, Brahma creates another Manu> to continue the
cycle of Creation or Srishti; Vishnu on his part takes a new
Avtar, and also a new Indra and Saptarishis are appointed.
Eventually it takes 14 Manu>s and their respective
Manvantaras to create a Kalpa, Aeon, or a Day of Brahma,
according to the Hindu Time Cycles and also the Vedic
timeline. Thereafter, at the end of each Kalpa, there is a period
of dissolution or Pralaya, wherein the world is destroyed and it

The correct form in Hindi is Manwantar; in Bangla Mon-non-tor.
Strangely, the English version has an a added at the end of the word, as
in many other Sanskrit words; for example Purana for Puran, Shiva for
Shiv, Rama for Ram, Nirvana for Nirvan, and the like.

2.10 - Manvantara

lies in a state of rest, during a period called the, Night of

After that, the creator Brahma starts his cycle of
creation all over again, in an endless cycle of creation, each
followed by Destruction for which Shiva, Hindu God of
destruction, and also renewal, is invoked towards the end of
each such cycle.
Manu>s of the weta Wa>ra>ha Kalpa the present Kalpa
The past
1st Manvantara - the interval of Swayambhu Manu>
2nd Manvantara - the interval of Swarochish Manu>
3rd Manvantara - the interval of Uttam Manu>
4th Manvantara - the interval of Tmash Manu>
5th Manvantara - the interval of Raiwat Manu>
6th Manvantara - the interval of Chakshush Manu>
The present,
7th Manvantara - the interval of Waiwaswat Manu>
The future,
8th Manvantara - Sawarni Manu>
9th Manvantara - Daksha Sawarni Manu>
10th Manvantara - Brahma Sawarni Manu>
11th Manvantara - Rudra Sawarni Manu>
12th Manvantara - Dharma Sawarni Manu>
13th Manvantara - Raucya or Dev Sawarni Manu>
14th Manvantara - Bhauta or Indra Sawarni Manu>
End quote.

It is also interesting to note that the duration of each

Manvantara is 306720000 years which comprises of 71
Chaturyugas; each Chaturyuga being 4320000 years long. A

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Chaturyuga is comprised of 4 Yugas or Ages 1728000 years

of Satya Yuga, 1296000 years of Treta Yuga, 864000 years of
Dwapar Yuga, and 432000 years of Kali Yuga.
In short, creation, destruction and re-creation will
continue endlessly from Kalpa to Kalpa, within which from
Manvantara to Manvantara, within which from Chaturyuga to
Chaturyuga, within which from Yuga to Yuga. Rene Guenon
(Shaykh Abdul Wahid Yahya) has not included this description
in his metaphysical presentation of the mythological
Manvantara. Therefore, it is useful to rewrite the passage
quoted above, with embedded notes in bold, in order to help the
reader to understand what is in the mind of the writer.
In truth there can be many ends of the world
(coinciding with the end of the reign of a particular Manu>),
because there are cycles of very varied duration, contained as it
were one within another (i.e. Yugas within Chaturyugas within
Manvantaras within Kalpas),
Kalpas) also because this same notion can
always be applied analogically at all degrees and at all levels;
but it is obvious that these ends are of very unequal
importance (because change of a Kalpa is a greater event
compared to the change of a Manvantara and Chaturyuga
Chaturyuga and
Yuga in that order),
order) as are the cycles themselves to which they
(i.e. the ends) belong; and in this connection it must be
acknowledged that the end now under consideration is
undeniably of considerably greater importance than many
others, for it is the end of a whole Manvantara (presumably
because this is the fourth Yuga of the seventy-
seventy-first Chaturyuga
of the seventh Manvantara),
Manvantara) and so of the temporal existence of
what may rightly be called a humanity (which is still existing in
the Kali Yuga of the seventy-
seventy-first Chaturyuga),
Chaturyuga) but this, it

2.10 - Manvantara

must be said once more, in no way implies that it is the end of

the terrestrial world itself, because, through the reinstatement
(i.e. destruction and re-
re-creation) that takes place at the final
instant, this end will itself immediately become the beginning
of another (the eighth) Manvantara (i.e. the reign of Sawarni
Manu> will commence in the current weta weta Wa> ha Kalpa).
He continued on: While on this subject, there is yet one
more point needing to be explained more precisely; the
partisans of progress have a habit of saying that the Golden
age is not in the past but in the future (here the writer writer is
blaming the partisans of progress for putting their faith in the
maxim: Truth shall triumph, which points to a future for the
final triumph of Truth);
Truth) nevertheless the truth is that so far as
our own Manvantara is concerned, it (i.e. the golden age) is in
the past (a hypothetical position that renders any spiritual and
moral struggle meaningless),
meaningless) for it is nothing other than the
primordial state itself (refering to the Satya Yuga or the Age
of Truth of the present Chaturyuga).
Chaturyuga) There is a sense however
in which it is both in the past (i.e. in the Satya Yuga of the last
Chaturyuga of the seventh Manvantara) and in the future (i.e.
in the Satya Yuga of the first Chaturyuga of the eighth
Manvantara) but only on condition that attention is not
confined to the present Manvantara (to fulfil this condition one
must accept that there is no end to the cycle of Manvantaras
and Chaturyugas) but is extended to include the succession of
terrestrial cycles, for in so far as the future is concerned nothing
but the Golden age of another Manvantara (i.e. the Satya
Yuga of the first Chaturyuga of the eighth Manvantara) can
possibly (?) be in question; . . .

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

This could be described as a metaphysical compulsion in

defence of mythology, a paradoxical situation of accepting
the golden age through its rejection in the present life-cycle.
The word possibly in the last clause is intriguing typical of
those who do not have Certainty of Knowledge (Ilmul Yaqi>n).
This indicates the playfulness of metaphysics.
As far as Islam is concerned, the progression of life is
linear, not cyclic. It simply means, Allah Subh{a>nahu> wa Taa>la> has
assigned a destiny for Man as well as the rest of the Creation.
Everything is moving towards that destiny. On the other hand,
the cyclic view of Hinduism promotes endless birth, death and
re-birth. For the Hindu doctrine, there never was a first Kalpa,
nor will there be a last Kalpa automatically leading to a
position of eternal existence for both the Creator and the
Creation an idea that easily dissolves into Pantheism, in
which Creation is reduced to Ma>ya or mere Illusion.1 Reality
(including the Cosmos) is therefore described as Li>la, an
outcome of creative play or pastime or sport by the divine
absolute (Brahman). Contrary to that, the Qura>n says:

We created not the heavens, the earth, and all between them,
merely in (idle) sport.
Su>rah Dukha>n 44:38
A Sufi shaykh should know this more than anyone else!

Wah}dat-al-Wuju>d is no more than a variation of the same idea. More on
it in Section Three.

2.11 No Death After Death

The act of creation from out-of-nothing is mentioned in

Islam without any ambiguity. Al-Badi>, one of the names of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, bears testimony to that. Man will
certainly taste death, but only once. He will then be resurrected
into the next world (which will not be the same world created
all over again), in which he will never face death again. So, the
Qura>n says:

Nor will they there taste death, except the first death.
Su>rah Dukha>n 44:56
In another passage the Qura>n describes the elation of
the one who escaped Hell and entered Paradise:

Had it not been for the Grace of my Lord, I should certainly

have been among those brought there (i.e. Hell)! Is it that we
shall not die, except for our first death, and that we shall not be
punished?(In reply, the assurance comes from Allah) Surely
this is the supreme achievement! For the like of this let all
strive, who wish to strive.
Su>rah S}af> fa>t 37:57-61
However, for one who ends up in Hell, it is said:

Therein shall he neither die nor live.
Su>rah T}a-> Ha> 20:74 and Su>rah Ala> 87:13

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

It simply means that although the dweller of Hell, like

anyone else, will not die, his remaining alive will be worse than
It is not conceivable that such a straightforward
knowledge given in the Qura>n should escape the notice of one
who was a Muslim, a Sufi, and a Shaykh?
Islam does not endorse a deterministic view of history.
Hence the concept of golden age is not restricted to the
beginning of a supposed cycle of life. The emergence of the
guidance of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> coincided with the creation of
Adam in Paradise. Nations and tribes in all ages have been free
to apply that guidance in order to bring about a golden age at
any time they wished. However, when they followed the lead of
the Devil (even in Paradise), they suffered doom. So, human
history has been a non-stop alternation between the so-called
golden age at the best of times, and wretchedness at the worst
of times, depending on the collective choice made by man at
different intervals.
In the same context, it must be added that the fanciful
primordial state mentioned in the above-quoted passage,
seems to suggest a certain overall environment that existed
long time ago in which the lucky individual found himself. It
would imply that such an existence was independent of mans
basic nature. The truth is, that the primordial state, if
anything, is nothing other than what has been ingrained within
the very nature (fit}rah) of man. It is this that helps him to
discern between the right conduct and wrong. In short, it is the
collective cultivation of this that could transform any age into a
golden age.

2.11 - No Death After Death

There have been times in history when social life lost all
decent control in a nation or in a tribe or in the entire world,
as at the advent of Muhammad (s), the Messenger of Allah, the
last of all Prophets. At such junctures, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> did
restate his Guidance in order to cleanse it of the debris of
metaphysical speculations.1 This paved the way to a fresh
collective effort in the realization of truth under the leadership
of a Prophet. As for the subsequent generations, i.e. in the post-
Prophetic era, it became for them an assignment of re- re-
realization of the same truth, over and over again. In the case of
failure in achieving that, both the individual and the collective
had been (in the past), and will be (in the future), held
responsible, simply because of the violation of their own
primordial nature. It is in this sense, that the primordial
nature of man, like the faculty of sight, has the ability to see, see
as well as respond to, the truth contained in the Guidance
presented to it.

The case of the Scribes and the Pharisees when Jesus (a) arrived is of
special note.

2.12 Light and Guidance

Just like vision (eyesight) in the physical eye needs

correction and adjustment for various reasons, so does the
primordial nature or the inner eye need the Light (Nu>r) of
proper reason and intellect in order to improve its power of
grasp of the invisible phenomena around itself.1 And just like
the objects that are present before the eye must be described to
it through a mechanism of knowledge in order that the eye can
recognize them for what they are, so does the primordial
nature need Guidance (Hida>yah) in order to fine-tune its
behaviour and conduct in the existent world.
As a matter of fact, Light and Guidance constitute the
essence of all teachings from Adam (a) to Muhammad (s), and
it is this that the present discussion is most concerned with.
Every renewal of the Message of Allah acknowledged that the
previous Message did contain Light and Guidance. So, Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says in the Qura>n:

It was We who revealed the Torah (to Moses),
therein WAS guidance and light . . .
Su>rah Ma>idah 5:44
And again:

And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary,
confirming the Law that had come before him.
We sent him the Gospel, therein WAS guidance and light . . .
Leading to Bas}ir> ah (insight) and Fira>sah (intuitive knowlegde of human

2.12 - Light and Guidance

Su>rah Ma>idah 5:46

And finally:

To you (O Muhammad), We sent the Scripture (the Qura>n) in
truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and
guarding it (i.e. the Qura>n) in safety (something done for the
first time in the history of scriptures), so judge between them
by what Allah revealed, and follow not their
their vain desires,
diverging from the truth that has come to you.
you . .
Su>rah Ma>idah 5:48
The clear assertions in the above statements are: (1) that
the previous scriptures did contain Light and Guidance, since
they were revealed by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>; (2) that the
subsequent scriptures confirmed the Light and Guidance that
was still available in the previous scriptures; and (3) that the
subsequent scriptures presented a corrected form of the basic
doctrines (Aqa>id), and a more comprehensive form of the
necessary practices (Ama>l). It implied that the subsequent
scriptures did not have to borrow anything whatsoever from the
previous scriptures, nor had to be confirmed by the previous
scriptures. This process continued until the arrival of the
Qura>n, in whose case Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> declared that He
would guard it from any mutilation or any contamination, for it
was to be the final message for the entire mankind.
Therefore, whatever Light and Guidance is obtainable in
the previous scriptures, must necessarily be present in the
Qura>n. Consequently, nothing outside the Qura>n is needed
anymore. It means, if something present in the other scriptures

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

is also found in the Qura>n, such is certainly Light and

Guidance. If not, then that must be discarded. It also means
that if a different version of any issue is found in other
scriptures, then the version in the Qura>n is to be treated as a
correction on that issue. That is why the Qura>n calls itself the
Criterion (Furqa>n), i.e. that which distinguishes between what
is acceptable and what is not; that which separates the relevant
from the irrelevant; and that by which to judge the truth or
falsehood contained in other scriptures and thoughts.
Conversely, if the Qura>n is silent on doctrines, stories and
descriptions of natural phenomena that abound in other
scriptures, then such must be avoided, and not used as the basis
of sure knowledge.
It must still be said that Islam does encourage gathering
of knowledge on mundane matters wherever it is found. In
other words, Islam does not shut the Muslims off from
transacting and communicating with other people. On the one
hand, it clears the way to improve and organize better living,
and on the other, it provides opportunities to invite other
people to the truth and benefits of Islam. But above all, it is a
matter of cardinal importance in Islam: not to persecute people
of other religions for their beliefs, or dispossess them of their

La> ikra>ha fid-di>n Let there be no compulsion in religion.
Su>rah Baqarah 2:256
That, in Islam is liberalism. So, liberalism is not any
fanciful cocktail of religious and spiritual principles. Only Islam
prescribes live and let live in the absolute meaning of the

2.13 The Abuse of Liberalism

With an open mind therefore, the early Muslims did not

hesitate to patronize human thoughts found in the possession of
other people at that time. Most notable among them were the
Greek thoughts which were disdainfully neglected by the
Christian uprising, and which as a result were on the verge of
extinction. In the long run however, some Muslim scholarship
swallowed a bit too much of those thoughts, and started to
probe into Islamic principles and doctrines using the Greek
brand of rationalism, specially Neoplatonic logic. As a result,
intellectual chaos, schism and dissension became widespread.
However, the mainstream Muslims1 remained firmly rooted to
the Qura>n and the Sunnah thankfully their romanticism with
Islam was nurtured by the realism revealed by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>. They rejected those who rejected Allahs guidance.
Orthodox scholars2 of great renown rose to the occasion. They
used extraordinary skills to point out and weed out the fallacies
of the deviant minds among the Muslims whose romanticism
could not be quenched without borrowing myths from alien
cultures and dead civilizations. In so doing, i.e. in the syncretic
environment thus created, the deviant Muslims kept wooing
those who have been branded by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> as the
kuffa>r (rejectors, heretics).

Al-Sawa>d al-Az}am the great majority.
Imam Ghazzali (r) and others.

2.14 Syncretism makes an inroad

In this way, the seed of syncretism (i.e. the fusion or

reconciliation of different systems or beliefs, or the attempt at
such fusion) once sown has never fully been weeded out. It
remained in hibernation ever since, and did pop up from time to
time in different forms and in varying degrees. The grossest
example of that was the creation by the Mughal emperor Akbar
of a religion called Di>n-e-Ela>hi> a concoction of ideas from all
the living faiths of his time. During the colonial rule of Muslim
lands, Jamaluddin Afghani (1838-1897), an Iranian Shia
Muslim, championed the cause. He was the chief of the
masonic lodges founded in Egypt. His disciple Muhammad
Abduh (1849-1905) succeeded him in that position. Muhammad
Abduh was theologically much closer to the Twelver Shia
Muslims than to the four Sunni Madhhabs (schools of Law),
mostly due to the influence of Jamaluddin Afghani. He wrote a
book entitled Islam and Christianity, in which he said: All
religions are the same. They are different only in their outward
appearance. Jews and Christians and Muslims should support
one another. He wrote to a priest in London: I hope to see the
two great religions, Islam and Christianity, hand in hand,
embracing each other. Then, the Torah and the Bible and the
Koran will become books supporting each other, being read
everywhere, and respected by every nation.
The Egyptian rendezvous is significant. Rene Guenon
(Shaykh Abdul Wahid Yahya) lived there from 1930 until his
death in 1951, and took a leading part in the creation in France
of a masonic lodge called The Great Triad which is affiliated
with the Grand Lodge of Paris. Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa

2.14 - Syncretism makes an inroad

Nuruddin) had been in correspondence with Rene Guenon for

20 years, and finally during 1938 and 1939 he traveled to Egypt
to meet him. Martin Lings (Shaykh Abu Bakr Sirajuddin, 1909-
2005), a follower and student of Frithjof Schuon, went to Egypt
in 1939, lived there until 1952, and kept visiting the place at
regular intervals until his death. And so does Seyyed Hossein
Nasr, a disciple of Frithjof Schuon for over fifty years, whose
works are based on the doctrine and viewpoints of the Perennial
hilosophy [For more details on Perennial Philosophy see
Section Three].
A contemporary phenomenon was the formation of the
Theosophical Society in 1875 in New York by Madame Helena
Blavatsky (1831-1891) and her associates. It was a syncretic
approach to promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures of
the Worlds religions and sciences, and to vindicate the
importance of the old Asiatic literature, namely, of the
Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
Such a movement, i.e. the Theosophical Society, was
bad enough from a Muslim point of view. But, Rene Guenon
(Shaykh Abdul Wahid Yahya) went one step further. He
wanted more. He blasted the syncretism of Madame Blavatsky,
and proposed in its place the idea of synthesis. In reviewing his
Symbolism of the Cross, Wikipedia has the following:
Gunon distinguishes synthesis from syncretism:
syncretism consists in assembling from the outside a number of
more or less incongruous elements which, when so regarded,
can never be truly unified. Syncretism is something outward:
the elements taken from any of its quarters and put together in
this way can never amount to anything more than borrowings

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

that are effectively incapable of being integrated into a doctrine

worthy of that name. To apply these criteria to the present
context of the symbolism of the cross, he said:
[...] syncretism can be recognized wherever one finds
elements borrowed from different traditional forms and assembled
together without any awareness that there is only one single doctrine
of which these forms are so many different expressions or so many
adaptations related to particular conditions related to given
circumstances of time and place.
A notable example of syncretism can be found,
according to Gunon, in the doctrines and symbols of the
Theosophical Society (of Madame Blavatsky & Co). Synthesis
on the other hand is carried essentially from within, by which it
properly consists in envisaging things in the unity of their
principle. Synthesis will exist when one starts from unity itself
and never loses sight of it throughout the multiplicity of its
manifestations; this moreover implies the ability to see beyond
forms and an awareness of the principal truth. Given such
awareness, one is at liberty to make use of one or another of
those forms, something that certain traditions symbolically
denote as the gift of tongues. The concordance between all
traditional forms may be said to represent genuine
synonymies.1 In particular, Ren Gunon writes that the
Cross is a symbol that in its various forms is met with almost
everywhere, and from the most remote times. It is therefore far
from belonging peculiarly to the Christian tradition,
tradition and the
cross, like any other traditional symbol, can be regarded
according to manifold senses.
End quote.

The state of being a synonym is called synonymy.

2.14 - Syncretism makes an inroad

So, while syncretism attempts to create a picture which

is not there at the moment, Rene Guenon (Shaykh Abdul Wahid
Yahya) arrived at the conclusion that the picture does not have
to be created, because it is already there in a synthetic form. It
is like the pictures in a kaleidoscope, which, although look
different from each other, are made up of the same elements,
and therefore have a synthetic unity. Therefore, the symbol of
the Cross in its various forms is met with almost everywhere.
The word almost here betrays conjecture, and not sure
knowledge. To accept this, one would have to say that the
myths of Manvantara and other Hindu concepts, and the
symbolism of the Cross, and the unadulterated monotheism of
Islam, are but different pictures of the same perennial truth!
Bizarre indeed!
If that is so, then one would ask, who are the Kuffa>r
(Unbelievers, heretics) and Mushriku>n (polytheistic Idolaters)
in this world? The level of liberalism shown here would imply
that on the one hand, the priest class in every religion would be
exonerated because after all, in the final analysis, all of them
have an equal share in the gift of tongues, and therefore they
point to the same thing. And on the other hand, the vast
majority of the common followers would also be exonerated
because after all they are incapable of grasping the intricacies
of metaphysical gymnastics that is the domain of the elite. The
truth of the matter is that when a Muslim reads the Qura>n, he
finds more than 500 mentions of the word Kufr (heresy,
blasphemy) and its derivatives. Can it be said with any
conviction that the Qura>n does not mean what it means!
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says in the Qura>n:

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

And most of them follow nothing but fancy,

truly fancy can be of no avail against Truth.
Surely, Allah is well aware of all they do.
Su>rah Yu>nus 10:36
And again:

They follow nothing but conjecture,
and conjecture avails nothing against Truth.
Su>rah Najm 53:28
Does it matter how many best-sellers one has written, or
how many prizes one has won from the connoisseurs of literary
excellence? As a muslim, it is a grave error to introduce Hindu
or Christian doctrinal elements into Islam in the syncretic
sense; for that would simply mean that Islam as expressed in
the Qura>n is not complete. Or, worse error than that is to
falsely insist on a discovery, in the synthetic sense, of the
occurrence of such elements in Islam; for that would mean that
Islam is just one more version of the so-called perennial truth,
and therefore is no different from the other religions when
assessed from the point of view of perfection.

2.15 Islams Perfection is Absolute

This last contention militates against the concept of the

Finality of Prophethood in Muhammad (s), the Messenger of
Allah, as well as the declaration in the Qura>n:

This day have those who reject Faith given up all hope of your
religion (i.e. they cannot manipulate your religion any more);
yet fear them not, but fear Me. This day have I perfected your
religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have
chosen for you Islam as your religion.
Su>rah Ma>idah 5:3
In the light of this divine statement, it is significant to
note here that other people have even changed the names of
their religion from Islam (a name assigned by Allah Himself) to
something else. It is queer to then say that in doing so they
havent really done anything wrong. Certainly, judging by their
doctrines and practices they are nowhere near Islam in any case.
Be that as it may, Allah did not name them as Hindus and
Buddhists and Jews and Christians. He says:

It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this
(Revelation); that the Messenger (Muhammad) may be a
witness for you, and you be witnesses for mankind!
Su>rah H}ajj 22:78
Yes indeed, we are witnesses that the rest of mankind
refused to become Muslims, i.e. accept the final, completed and

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

perfected Message from the same Almighty God they profess to

worship. On the contrary, they are averse to the word Muslim,
and they cannot tolerate the existence of the Muslims.
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says further about Syyeduna
Ibrahim (a):

Ibra>hi>m was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was H}ani>f
(true in Faith), and a Muslim (bowed his will to Allahs);
and not a Mushrik (he did not join gods with Allah).
Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n 3:67
And so were all other Prophets and Messengers. They
taught Islam, and they were Muslims. But their versions of
Islam were changed wholesale, including the name. Therefore,
nothing but the final version of Islam counts. And Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la> says as much:

The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will).
Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except
through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them.
But if any deny the signs of Allah,
Allah is swift in calling to account.
Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n 3:19

2.16 Some
Some usual Skepticism

After reading the above analysis, those who have

become too attached to the eclectic Sufis, might not feel at ease
with it. It is possible that their immediate reaction will be to
say: what have been written above are not neccesarily true true.
With this kind of egocentric reaction, they will dive deeper into
the quagmire of metaphysics, and persuade themselves that it is
only they who understand these matters. For, given the
ignorance of the common masses, they may very well
appropriate for themselves the titles of ar-Ra>sikhu>na fil-Ilm
(those who are firmly grounded in knowledge) as well as Ulul-
Alba>b (men of understanding). As a result, they may fancy
themselves on a higher pedestal of spiritual knowledge, as
though they have discovered the keys to the Mutasha>biha>t
(metaphors, allegories). The truth of the matter is that they fail
to notice what Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says in this context:

But those in whose hearts is perversity, follow the part thereof
that is allegorical (Mutasha>biha>t),
seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings.
Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n 3:7
Still others could bring up a charge that this analysis is
too rationalistic.
rationalistic True indeed! Rationalism that functions under
the umbrella of Revelation is highly recommended. It is not
beyond the scope of Reason to achieve understanding, once the
Truth and its related Signs (a>ya>t) have been revealed. The
various forms of the word tadabbur (thinking, contemplation,
consideration) have been used many times in the Qura>n; for

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qura>n,
or are their hearts locked up by them?
Su>rah Muhammad 47:24
The same is true for the word tafakkur (reflect, ponder,
meditate); for instance:

Thus does Allah make clear to you (His) Signs;
that you may reflect.
Su>rah Baqarah 2:266
Finally, there are 49 occurrences of the various forms of
the word aql (reason, rationality, intellect); for instance:

But he (Shaytan) did lead astray a great multitude of you.
Did you not then understand?
Su>rah Ya>si>n 36:62
In short, Reason in a subordinate role to Revelation, is
certainly a God-gifted tool that must be used to comprehend
and appreciate the Truth. It is like going through a top-down
structure in which Revelation sits at the top as the starting
point, and everything else down to the smallest detail cascades
from there in a perfectly reason-
reason-able connection.
On the other hand, eclecticism, syncretism or the more
radical discovery of synthetic unity of Rene Guenon (Shaykh
Abdul Wahid Yahya) are also the products of rationalism, but
with complex metaphysics as their mainstay. Reason, that is
subordinate to metaphysics, can never arrive at the truth
proclaimed by Revelation. Any approach through metaphysics
is like going through a bottom-up structure in which the path to

2.16 - Some usual Skepticism

the top remains clouded, thus invariably lost. Hence, each

person indulging in metaphysics ends up with results that are
vastly incompatible with all others. Nonetheless, there is a
pretense, or perhaps a tacit claim, by the metaphysician that he
knows what is in the mind of Allah. The simple truth is, that
only Allah knows what is in His mind. It is not possible to
know Allahs mind by any means whatsoever, until Allah
Himself reveals His mind to mankind.
One would then wonder why these Muslims, these
scholars, these Sufi Shaykhs chose the path of syncretism.
Could that be a natural progression for them, since their journey
to Islam took them through Christianity, Buddhism and most
prominently Vedic Hinduism, and therefore in the end they
failed to unload the excess baggage they collected along the
way? Is it really as benign as that, or is there something more to
it than meets the eye? After all, mention of secret societies like
the Grand Lodges of Cairo, London and Paris have featured in
their biographies. Admittedly, the truth of that cannot be
established easily. One has to remain vigilant though, and look
around for further evidences. But even if such a contention
turns out to be true, it should not worry a genuine and
straightforward Muslim. If (and that is a big if) a sinister plan
to divert intelligent youth towards a docile anti-social life has
been put in place by the players hidden in those masonic lodges,
then the Muslims must be reminded of the challenge from Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, when He says:

They want to extinguish Allahs (guiding) light with their
utterances; but Allah will not allow (this to pass),

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

for He has willed to spread His light in all its fulness, however
hateful this may be to all who deny the truth.
Su>rah Taubah 9:32; Su>rah S}aff 61:8

2.17 The Maryamiyyah Tari>qah

A classic example of their syncretic modus operandi is

the use of a logo which says: Ya> Maryam Alaykis Sala>m (O
Maryam, upon you be peace)! Adapted from an Egyptian
Coptic hymn, this logo is written in a difficult-to-read
calligraphy, framed and hung on the walls of the disciples of
Martin Lings (Shaykh Abu Bakr Sirajuddin). Undoubtedly,
Maryam or Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus (a), has been
mentioned in the Qura>n with great respect. So also are
mentioned many of the great Prophets. However, Maryam was
neither a Prophetess, nor a teacher. It is doubtful if any Sufi
order has ever been named after the previous Prophets.
Normally, Sufi orders bear the names of the Masters who
instituted them. It is however claimed that in 1965 while on a
boat at Port-Vendres between the French coast and Morocco,
the Divine Mercy overwhelmed Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa
Nur ad-Din Ahmad) in a special manner; it approached him
inwardly in a feminine form which he knew to be the Holy
Virgin. Schuon later described the coming of the Virgin as a
sign of his heavenly adoption and after these moments of
Grace, Schuon added Maryamiyyah to the name of his Tari>qah
to distinguish it from the North African Alawi Tari>qah.1
The followers of this Tari>qah have been told that
Maryam is their patron saint. In Christianity, a patron Saint is a
saint to whose protection and intercession a person, a society, a
church, or a place is dedicated. The choice is often made on the

The Milk of the Virgin: The Prophet, the Saint and the Sage by Renaud
Fabbri; page 11, worldwisdom.com. A highly intriguing insight into the
minds of these syncretic Sufis can be obtained from this one essay.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

basis of some real or presumed relationship with the persons or

places involved. A martyr who had a special interest in a place
was called its patron as early as the 4th century. Trades and
professions had their patrons, and for every disease a saint
could be invoked to cure it. St. Patrick, for example, is the
patron saint of Ireland because he is credited with bringing
Christianity to the Irish people. Other widely known patron
saints are Andrew of Scotland, Denis of France, George of
England, Nicholas of Russia, James the Great of Spain, and
Stephen of Hungary. In view of all that, the role of Maryam as
a patron saint in this Tari>qah is anybodys guess.
The syncretic state of mind in this episode is further
evidenced by the occurrence of the above-mentioned logo in the
dedication page of a book written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a
Shia Muslim, who belongs to what is known as the
Traditionalist School,1 and was a lifelong student and follower
of Frithjof Schuon.2 This fact opens up yet another dimension
to the study of syncretism in Islamic thoughts and practices.
The picture that emerges here is that syncretism is the business
of those who cannot let go of traditions that have been rejected
by Islam in no uncertain terms. So, what is that common

The Traditionalist School of thought, also known as Integral
Traditionalism (in the sense of Integralism) or Perennialism . . . is an
esoteric movement inspired by the . . . French metaphysician Ren
Gunon and developed by authors such as German-Swiss philosopher
Frithjof Schuon, the Ceylonese-British scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy,
Italian occultist Julius Evola, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Huston
Smith, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. The movement . . . also influenced Ken
Wilber and the Integral thought developed by followers of Sri
Aurobindo. Wikipedia.
See Wikipedia for the life and works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

2.17 - The Maryamiyyah Tari>qah

element between all these traditions that bonds them together?

It is the deification of the central figures in these traditions
Indeed, the Hindus, the Christians and the Shia Muslims have
made it a common cause. The descriptions of Krishna and Jesus
and Ali vary only in degrees, not in kind. That being so, the
adherents of these traditions are more than willing to
accommodate each other, first syncretically, then as a logical
compulsion, synthetically.
Islam came to put an end to this perennial blasphemy.
So, anyone who thinks that Tradition is a benign concept, in
that it is a universal reality, should know that Islam has no part
in it. However, sinister as it was, efforts were afoot to deify
Syyeduna Ali (r) while he was still alive, in order to relegate
Islam into the so-called traditional mould. Indeed, it needed the
mastermind of a Jew called Abdullah b. Saba to create the
schism, in the footsteps of another Jew by the name of Paul,
who had employed the same tactics six hundred years earlier to
create Trinity, and thereby a permanent schism in the body of
Christianity. [For more details, please revisit Section One].

2.18 To Protest is Bitterness is it?

Sometimes the followers of the syncretic Sufis label the

above protestations as a display of bitterness. In fact, Seyyed
Hossein Nasr has written about the zeal of bitterness in a
book called The Heart of Islam. He wrote: It is such a thing that
one almost gets a pleasure in continually re-opening the painful
wounds of injustice. It distorts objective judgement and makes
everything seem bitter. Indeed, in the context of the Shia
Muslims and their tradition of chest-beating and all the rest
they do during the Islamic month of Muharram, this sermon
hits the bulls eye. But to brush aside as bitterness any genuine
endeavour in pointing out blasphemy inherent in syncretism, is
a deliberate attempt to instil a feeling of guilt.
Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa Nuruddin) said: Bitterness
leads to Hell. A strong judgment indeed! Could such a thing be
said so categorically? He said further: Muslims today are
wallowing in a cult of bitterness and resentment. Nothing
positive comes out of it, only misery, despair and impotency.
One wonders if this moralizing is inadvertent or habitual. The
truth of the matter is that bitterness may or may not lead to
despair or impotency, but to accept the blame of an imagined
bitterness will surely make one impotent. Such a blame is
certainly demoralizing, and is perhaps designed to achieve just
that. However, disregarding Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh Isa
Nuruddin)s choice of words, it must be said that only the
impotent will not do or say or feel anything about the
predicament in which Muslims find themselves today. For a
long time now they have been in a tight grip from all sides,
such that they faced a road-block in any direction they tried to

2.18 - To Protest is Bitterness is it?

go. And now their disintegration is being carried out from

inside by the infiltration of the syncretic Sufis.
True Muslims will always be guided by the authentic
Hadith, which says:
Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it
with his hand (i.e. power); and if he is not able to do so, then
with his tongue (i.e. protest); and if he is not able to do so, then
with his heart (i.e. reject it as evil); and that (i.e. detesting evil
consciously) is the weakest form of Iman.
S{ah}ih> } of Muslim.
Hence, to protest against lies and injustices in any form
is politics, and their rejection is the awareness of the
distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. However,
to the syncretic Sufis, protest, politics or rejection is a taboo,
because to them it would be no less than wallowing in a cult of
bitterness and resentment. So, if you do something against
injustice, you are a terrorist; if you say something against it,
you are an activist; and if you feel bad about it, you are bitter.
Doomed if you dont react to tyranny, and doomed if you do!
The prescription of the eclectic Sufis is that you should remove
your teeth and nails, and crawl among the spineless worms. A
typical Christian directive of turning the other cheek, which,
curiously enough, no Christian has ever practised in the two
thousand years long history of Christianity.
Despite that, in order to be fair with all the religions and
idealistic traditions of the world, it must be acknowledged that
great moral teachings are to be found in the countless books
and scriptures everywhere. Muslims who choose to read them
will surely find them very uplifting. However, in most of these

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

moral precepts the pursuit of individual excellence is the

highest aim. Islam, on the other hand is the only prescription
that never loses sight of the collective application of moral
principles. The above quoted Hadith is one example of that. In
addition to that, the superiority of Islamic morality comes from
its insistence on sincerity (ikhla>s)} , without which the charity
(love and forgiveness) of Christianity, the humility (patience
and politeness) of Hinduism, and the obedience (scrupulous
attention to details) of Judaism fall short of achieving their full
potential. To wit, charity, humility and obedience have been
very highly placed in the teachings of the Qura>n as well, but
they must still be brought to life by the addition of sincerity.
This illustrates further that Light and Guidance found
anywhere are certainly present in the Qura>n in the most
pristine form. And it is then the prerogative of the Qura>n to
take the final step in order to complete and perfect such
elements of Light and Guidance.
However, what is true for moral teachings is not true for
the central doctrines of these religions. In particular, their
views of God vis--vis Creation and Existence, are downright
repugnant. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has at times punished people in
the past for their moral degeneration. But He has never
accepted any mischief with His own position as the Lord of the
Universe. Therefore, any mystification about His immanence in
the created world is an unacceptable and unpardonable
blasphemy. The syncretic Sufis have committed error along the
same lines.

2.19 The Jihad of Mujaddid Alf-

At the end of this analysis, it will be worthwhile to go

back in history in order to catch a glimpse of the jihad
conducted by Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni (r),
a great Sufi of the Naqshbandiyyah order, against syncretism
and other forms of blasphemy.
The Mujaddid was born in 971 A.H. during the rule of
the Mughal emperor Akbar. He came to be regarded as a
mujaddid around the age of 40, while Akbar was still alive for
another 4 years. His days of youth coincided with the power
and glory of Akbars flamboyant rule. Akbar, with the help of
his cronies, had instituted a new religion called Di>n-e-Ila>hi>,1 a
cocktail of neighbourhood religions in which Islam had little or
no place. His central creed was La> ila>ha illalla>h, Akbar
Khali>fatulla>h.2 The attestation of Muh}ammadur Rasu>lulla>h was
discarded because that, according to Akbar, was applicable for
the first millenium.
The Sun was worshipped 4 times a day. Reincarnation
was a tenet of faith. Hijab for women was banned. Beard was
not allowed. Alcohol became halal. Likewise, usury and
gambling were pronounced halal. Prostitution was permitted.
Meat of tiger, bear, dog and cat were accepted as halal, but
meat of cow, goat, camel and buffalo were banned as haram.
Masjids were destroyed to build Temples in their place.
Teaching of Arabic, Qura>n and Hadith was strictly banned.
Protesters were exiled. Fast of Ramad}a>n was ridiculed with

The divine religion.
There is no God but Allah; Akbar is the deputy of Allah.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

threats of death punishment. Kissing the floor to show respect

to the emperor was instituted.
As a whole, the Mujaddid faced the combined fitna of:
1. emperor Akbar, 2. the worldly-wise Ulama, 3. the Ra>fidis,
i.e. the Shia Muslims, and 4. the Hindus, Jains, Christians and
Parsees (the Fire-worshippers). Real Tasawwuf was badly
contaminated with all forms of ignorance and Bidah. For his
activism against all these misinterpretations, the Mujaddid was
imprisoned for long periods first by Akbar then by his son
Jahangir, who ruled for 22 years having become the emperor at
the age of 38 in 1014 A.H., who eventually relented and became
a disciple of the Mujaddid.
The Mujaddid maintained a strong position on the
following issues:
The doctrine of Ima>mah of the Shia Muslims is not
central to Shariah.
The greatness of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali are
in the same order as their khila>fah. Ali said: If anyone
says I am greater than Abu Bakr or Umar, Ill beat him,
as a liar and an imposter should be beaten. One who
thinks Ali is greater than Abu Bakr is outside the pale of
Ahle Sunnat.
Itteh}ad> and H}ulu>l, i.e. to become one with God is a
dreadful d}ala>lah (straying).
Metaphysical concepts of Wah}datul Wuju>d and Hama
U<st given by Ibnul Arabi and others have not been
understood by ignorant people. They were said in a state
of intoxication (sukr). So the ignorant people claimed
Itteh}ad> and H}ulu>l, and introduced many branches of

2.19 - The Jihad of Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni

d}ala>lah, and ended up saying: everything in creation,

i.e. earth, sky, trees, stones, plants are nothing but
Prophets were sent to teach that the entire Creation was
ghairullah other-than-Allah. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is far
above the created world. He is One without partners.
Anyone not accepting that, is a mulh}id (heretic) and a
zindi>q (atheist). To think of the mumkin (possible,
contingent) as wa>jib (necessary), i.e. to think of created
beings as Allah, and to think of the functions and
attributes of the mumkin as the functions and attributes
of Allah is to deny His Attributes.
The concept of ayn, i.e. to unite with Allah, or to
become exactly the same as Allah, is far from the truth.
In fact, nothing in the world has any resemblance with
Allah. He is above and beyond everything.
Do not be enchanted with the disrespectful words of
any Sufi. The great Shaykhs of Wah}datul Wuju>d and
Hama U<st meant to say that everything in creation is
the manifestation of Allahs Power and Might. Or it can
be said that His existence is the real existence, all else is
a shadow existence virtual, temporal. Hama U<st or
He is everything means other-than-He has no reality
of its own, i.e. real existence belongs to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> alone. By Hama U<st they meant to say Hama Az
Oost, i.e. everything is from Him.
Mansur al-Hallaj said: Anal H}aqq I am the Truth.
Bayazid Bustami said: Subh}an> i> Ma> Az}ama Sha>ni>
glory to me, how superior is my dignity. He also said:
Liwa>i> Arfao Min Liwa>e Muh}ammad (s) my flag is

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

higher than the flag of Muhammad (s). As a matter of

fact, just as there is Islam and Kufr in Shariah, so is
there Islam and Kufr in Tari>qah. Islam in both cases is
full of good qualities and Kufr in both is abominable.
The station of Jam (union, collectedness, reunification
with God) is Kufr in Tari>qah, and at this station the
distinction between H}aqq (truth) and Ba>ti} l (falsehood)
is obliterated, because the seeker sees only the beauty of
his beloved in the mirror of good and evil. So, to him
good and evil or perfection and imperfection become
nothing but the manifestation of Tawh}id> . That is why
he is in a state of accord with everyone, and thinks
everyone is on the right path. Sometimes he thinks that
this manifestation is the same as Z}ah> ir, or, that creation
is Allah, or, that the servant is the same as the Master.
All this happens at the station of Jam. This is Kufr in
Tari>qah, and is called sukr or ill manners. In such cases,
instead of taking the literal meaning of their shat}ah}at>
(straying, delirious speech) one must still take the
meaning acceptable in Shariah. So, Anal H}aqq actually
means I am not present, only Allah (the Truth) is
present. If such words are spoken by those who are the
people of the Truth, then this is A<b-e-H}aya>t (elixir or
water of life) for them; but if it is spoken by the people
of falsehood then this is fatal poison for them; like the
parting of water was a blessing to the Bani Isra>il but
for the Egyptians it was their doom. The test of that is
that the people of Truth in spite of their sukr do not
neglect the performance of Shariah in the slightest, but
the people of falsehood leave such performances on the
pretext of their sukr.

2.19 - The Jihad of Mujaddid Alf-Tha>ni

Some sufis have presented Wah}datul Wuju>d and Hama

U<st without understanding their true meaning and have
thus committed and promoted Kufr.
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> does not get united with anything.
When the Sufi says: a ka>mil (flawless) fakir achieves
fana>, he means nothing is important to him any more
except Allah, he doesnt mean that he is absorbed or
obliterated in Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
One who abandons z}ah> ir (outward, that which is in
public view) and wishes to perfect his ba>ti} n (inner self,
hidden from public view) is a mulh}id (kafir, heretic). If
he attains a state, it is only a deception (istidra>j). A
ba>ti} ni (hidden) state is acceptable only if he follows
z}ah> ir meticulously.
Only the ijtiha>d (insightful judgment) of the Ulama of
ahle sunnah wal jamaah is true, all else is either false or
sukr. Sufis who practise rigorous routines to unite with
Allah by disregarding Shariah have no value. Greek
philosophers and Hindu sages have done it. The state
they thus achieve is deception.
Sama> (musical gathering), songs and dance are simply
entertainments. No faqi>h (doctor of law) has ever
accepted them as ja>iz (permissible). The practices of the
Sufis with regard to haram and halal is no argument.
The Shariah of Muhammad (s) is the only Tari>qah. A
state or knowledge or Marifah achieved in this way is
good. Anything achieved in any other way is deception
and harmful.

2.20 Conclusion

This analysis is not aimed at demeaning any Sufi shaykh

or his disciples. However, embedded in it is the recognition that
the final authority on the validity of any thought or ideal rests
in the Qura>n alone. There is always a fear that scholars may
catch a sudden glimpse of an untenable meaning in a verse of
the Qura>n, and then rush to build a system of thought which is
not remotely connected to the principal themes of Islam. In
order to be polite to a possibility like that, it must still be said
that such an aberration may happen in a state of unchecked zeal
called sukr or intoxication, as has been mentioned in the
previous chapter. If that ever happens, it becomes the duty of
everyone around, including the shaykh himself, to go back to
the Qura>n and look for further supporting verses, instead of
racing along to produce literature that may cause long-lasting
damage to the spiritual health of all concerned.
As Muslims, we have the extraordinary privilege that
the text of the Qura>n has remained unchanged through all the
attacks on Islam by the East and the West alike, as well as
fanciful interpretations by the sectarian divines. There have
always been times when dissensions arose, petty sects cropped
up, and nuisances unsettled Muslims sometimes for years, at
other times for centuries. But eventually it was the recourse to
the Qura>n that brought relief to the Ummah from all these
It has been noticed with dismay, that the syncretic Sufis
have taken so much from others, but so little from the Qura>n.
With their wealth of access to the non-Islamic sources, if they
had laboured to show them their fallacies, then that could have

2.20 - Conclusion

been a truly great service to Islam as well as to humanity at

large. But unfortunately, to the detriment of no one but
themselves and their followers, they remained glued to their
own whims; as though to point out that here they are, finally
arrived to teach the Muslims the correct ideals of the Qura>n
and Islam.
This analysis is a humble effort to reiterate the belief
that the Qura>n is the last hope for Muslims and non-Muslims
alike. Madame Helena Blavatsky mesmerized people with her
psychic powers. Sai Baba drew crowds by his hocus-pocus.
These are gross crowd-pleasers. Then there are others who
operate at the intellectual level far more subtle even for the
best of us in discernment. Those who have abandoned social
struggle, and to all intents and purposes live as hermits,1 are
easy targets for these deceptions. A Muslim aided with the
Qura>n will never fall in the trap of these deviations. With the
Qura>n in his hand, he is not the one who would be barking up
the wrong tree if he wishes to achieve moral class and
spiritual purity.

Allah is the Protector of those who have faith.
From the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into Light.
Su>rah Baqarah 2:257

La> rahba>niyyata fil-Isla>m. There is no monasticism in Islam.

Section Three



For the core material in Section Three, this writer is

deeply indebted to his great teacher Dr. Burhan Ahmad
Faruqi (1906-1995). He wrote The Mujaddids Conception of
Tawhid in 1940 as a thesis for his PhD. On the subject of the
misunderstanding around Shaykhul Akbar Muhyiddin Ibnul
Arabi (r)s theory of the six stages of Allahs so-called descent
or determination into the phenomenal world, and the corrections
on that theory pointed out by Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid
Alf-Thani (r), Dr Faruqis thesis remains the most sought-after
work in the world of scholarship till date. It was published by
Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan.

 ' "# 6  "#    C

The Opening Statement

Allah1 Subh}an> ahu> wa Taa>la> 2 says in three places of the Holy Qura>n:

Ma> qadaru> Lla>ha h}aqqa qadrihi>

Giving due regard to the context in each place,

Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall translated this expression as:

They measure not the power of Allah its true measure

( Su>rah Ana>m, 6:91)

They measure not Allah His rightful measure

(Su>rah H{ajj, 22:74)

They esteem not Allah as He has the right to be esteemed

(Su>rah Zumar, 39:67)

In this study, it will be an endeavour to use the word Allah for the
Creator. The word God will be used where the subject is speculation or
philosophy. God has not been revealed in any known scripture. As such,
it is assumed to be a man-made concept pointing to the Creator.
Glorified and Exalted is He.

3.01 Introduction

Defining Philosophy, C.E.M. Joad (1891 1953) wrote:

Philosophy is the expression of obscurity, but the philosophers
suffer from obscurity of expression. One remedy for this
predicament is to stay clear of obscurity. This is what Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has warned in Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n (3:7) of the
Holy Qura>n, where He makes a distinction between Muh}kama>t
(clear instructions) and Mutasha>biha>t (analogies, allegories,
signs). In a general sense, Muh}kama>t relate to the world of
experience and action, which are of interest to Social Sciences;
while Mutasha>biha>t relate to the foundations of belief
(theology) and the nature of existence (ontology), which are of
interest to Philosophy. As far as human grasp is concerned,
quite naturally, Mutasha>biha>t are far more obscure than
Muh}kama>t. That comparison besides, the last words words in both
domains cannot be discovered through human endeavour. For
good reasons, the last words are the exclusive privilege of
Revelation, i.e. they must be given to man by the Creator
Himself. Once the last words have been revealed, Social
Sciences and Philosophy may then come on board to discover
proper expressions in order to remove the obscurity, if any, in
order to make them intelligible to the ordinary man.
Joad wrote further: You do philosophize or you dont
philosophize, you must philosophize. Such a prescription can be
accepted as benign, even noble, as long as the aim is expression
of obscurity, i.e. if such obscurity is found in the last words
given in the Revelation. But if the exercise is to bypass
Revelation, or if it produces a result which simply competes for
recognition, or is yet another view on the matter under study,

3.01 - Introduction

then regardless of its artistic or literary excellence or logical

rigour, such a result has no value as a guiding principle of life.
As a matter of fact, any passionate attachment to such a view
will cause one to remain forever in the land of fantasies. This is
especially true if the view relates to Mutasha>biha>t, i.e. matters
which, although relevant to our existence, are beyond the grasp
of our direct experience. So, in the case of Mutasha>biha>t, it is
safe to accept the last word given by Revelation without
indulging in Philosophy, for, any philosophizing here is bound
to produce a far greater obscurity than can ever be expressed in
sensible language.
The present study emphasizes on this very assertion. It
points out how the meaning of Mutasha>biha>t in the Revelation,
particularly in relation to the understanding of Allah,
Allah have been
misunderstood by virtue of philosophizing. It points out the
incapacity of Philosophy, which, as will be seen later, cannot
discover the truth, but may take upon itself the task of
unveiling the obscurity in a given truth. It points out how in its
struggle to get over the hurdle of obscurity, it ends up with
more layers of obscurity than are already there.
As indicated above, it is mainly the question of
understanding Allah as it relates to Tasawwuf that this study
focuses on. In so doing, the relevant views of Perennial
Philosophy on the one hand, and orthodox Islam based on the
Revelation of the Qura>n on the other, are examined. This
exercise is purely academic, hence, it is not an attempt to judge
the piety, sincerity, devotion, holiness, or saintliness of anyone
in the world, Muslim or not Muslim. The greatness and fame of
the past and present sages is beyond reproach.

3.02 Understanding Allah

The tone in the divine expression in the opening

statement of this study is that of surprise. Surprise at the
foolishness of man in failing to show the level of respect that is
due to Allah, the Most High. Again, these words are a
reminder of how man has subjected Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> to his
own limited understanding. Above all, this expression is an
admonition directed to those whose arrogance of knowledge
has taken them too far. We are reminded that human history is
witness to the violation of Allahs true honour, time and time
again, at the mischievous prompt of Satan, the accursed.1 There
have been those who invented their own gods. Others denied
Allahs very existence. Yet others founded their own path of
devoutness while showing a total disregard for the Divine
In order therefore to look into the reasons and
ramifications of such sentiments, indeed violations, and the
way they have affected the noble profession of Tasawwuf, the
subject chosen for this study is understanding Allah as the
Creator in relation to what He has created. And to get to the
depth of this matter, it is deemed that human consciousness,
which is made up of perceptions of both mind and spirit, is the
faculty which must be examined. Briefly speaking, the
perceptions of mind are the totality of our direct experience of
the various levels of Nature that surround our present existence.

And surely he (Satan) did lead astray a great
multitude of you. Su>rah Ya>si>n, 36:62.
Then do you see such a one who takes as his god

his own vain desires? Su>rah Ja>thiya, 45:23.

3.02 - Understanding Allah

The perceptions of spirit on the other hand transcend such

experience, and can comprehend realities beyond.
A detailed look at these two perceptions, i.e. the way
they operate and the goals they pursue, is presented in the
following chapters. Since both of them occupy a place in our
consciousness, it is important to also visualize how they affect
each other, or are affected by each other. This will open the
way for us to appreciate the real reasons why Allah, the Most
High, sent so many Prophets to every community and to every
part of the world. Indeed, for a long time, written scriptures
were not available. Naturally therefore, words in the memory of
people were always vulnerable to misinterpretation. However,
the later part of the history of mankind has seen many written
scriptures, but these too were mutilated by the self-styled
experts of theology to satisfy their own whims. The present
study will bring to light the fact that had it not been for Islam,
we would never have known how renegade speculation and its
glorification had strangulated the spirit of religions in the past,
and how it is still active everywhere in the world, in waylaying
mankind from the true understanding of Allah in particular, and
the guidance He has sent for our benefit in general.
It must be stated right here without further ado that
great minds have often failed to see that the existence of Allah,
the Creator, belongs to a completely different plane compared
to the existence of all else. It is this fallacy that forms the
subject-matter of this study.

3.03 Religio
us Consciousness and Speculative

Everything in Creation has a direct consciousness of the

Creator.1 In the case of man this consciousness may be termed
as the religious consciousness,
consciousness primarily because this
consciousness is embellished with Revelation sent down to him
by the Creator Himself.2 Revelation contains knowledge of
Reality i.e. knowledge of the origin and destiny of Creation;
knowledge of mans role in it; and above all, knowledge of the
Creator Himself as much as man can comprehend. [Henceforth
in this study, Revelation and religious consciousness will be
used interchangeably as synonyms].
In order to grasp the message contained in Revelation,
man has been further endowed with an extraordinary faculty
called Intellect. It can be said without any doubt that intellect
is the distinction of man above the rest of the creation. Using
intellect, man has penetrated into many facts of life and nature,
enabling himself to transform the world around to a significant
degree. However, that capacity and the resultant success have,
more often than not, misled man into disregarding, mutilating,
even challenging the true knowledge given in Revelation. It
must however be stressed that it is not the role of Intellect to
subject Revelation to its own judgment,
judgment or present views that
run contrary to Revelation, especially on questions of the

There is not a thing but

celebrates His praise, and yet you understand not how they declare His
glory. Su>rah Isra>, 17:44.
In simple words, religious consciousness is mans awareness of, and
response to, anything that enters his psyche through divine scriptures.

3.03 - Religious Consciousness and Speculative Consciousness

highest Truths, such as understanding Allah.

Allah That because
intellect on its own cannot discover the realities beyond the
immediate experience. However, when it examines such
realities under the light of Revelation, it can certainly
appreciate them to a considerable degree. Nonetheless, the fact
remains that the urge for independent inquiry has been the
hallmark of human mind. This urge could be termed as mans
speculative consciousness which results in the discipline called
Philosophy.1 [More correctly, Cosmology in the present case.
Henceforth in this study, Philosophy and speculative
consciousness will be used interchangeably as synonyms].
To the religious consciousness, the world-view given by
the Creator Himself is the starting point that leads to the proper
understanding of both the Creator and His Creation.2 On the
contrary, speculative consciousness gathers all the physical,
social and psychological details of the experiential world to
form its own world-view.3 The present study is aimed at
underlining the main characteristics of: the religious
consciousness which is rooted in Revelation, and speculative

Speculative consciousness is mans awareness of, and response to,
anything that enters his psyche through non-divine i.e. mundane sources,
on the question of all that exists, seen and unseen, temporary and
This is known as the process of a priori or deductive reasoning which
involves drawing conclusions logically from other things that are already
known. In other words, it is a journey from the general to the particular. It
involves in determining the Effect by looking at the Cause, e.g. it has
rained so the ground must be wet.
This is known as the process of a posteriori or inductive reasoning in
which individual facts and ideas are used to reach a general rule or
conclusion. In other words, it is a journey from the particular to the
general. It involves in determining the Cause by looking at the Effect, e.g.
the ground is wet so it must have rained.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

consciousness which is expressed in Philosophy, in order that

the world-view derived from each could be put in the correct
As already indicated, speculative consciousness tries to
unify all the details of human experience into a single
meaningful picture, i.e. its aim is to discover the underlying
unity in the multiplicity around. It does that by going
backwards in the chain of cause and effect in order to discover
that First Cause the One that became Many. In other words it
probes into the current nature of things with the intention of
figuring out what it was before, and before, and before. In that
exercise, it establishes how seemingly unrelated things were
actually connected at a higher level, the point from where their
transformation took a different path giving rise to
characteristics vastly different from one another.1
The Many in the material world are classified into
groups of Solid, Liquid and Gaseous objects. Solid objects were
formed due to a high degree of condensation of liquids i.e.
condensation in terms of either consolidation of energy, or loss
of malleability and fluidity. Similarly, in the upward direction,
liquid objects were formed through condensation of gases.
Pursuing this pattern, the speculative consciousness has
discovered that gaseous substances were the result of
condensation or cooling down of Fire. Further back, the stage
before fire consisted of rays of Visible Light. That was
preceded by rays of Invisible Light. In its turn, invisible light

The Periodic Table in Chemistry illustrates this phenomenon rather
nicely. It shows how Hydrogen with an atomic number of 1 gets
progressively transformed into more complex elements until Lawrencium
appears with an atomic number of 103.

3.03 - Religious Consciousness and Speculative Consciousness

was the result of setting pure Energy into motion. Energy was
the manifestation of Intelligence, and finally, Intelligence was
the reflection of Spirit.1
It is not the intention here to dwell on the accuracy of
these presumed stages of transformation which attempt to take
us back to the very origin of the process of creation. Nor indeed
the accuracy of the hierarchy of such stages is of any serious
concern. That is the domain of the physical sciences, especially
cosmology. The important matter is to reiterate that the aim of
Philosophy is to find a path that strings all the natural
phenomena, plus all concepts and hypotheses, into a coherent
system. It can only discover the connections between pieces of
information and experience in both directions, forwards and
backwards. In short, to arrange is the assignment of Philosophy.
It cannot invent anything on its own, for that is not its mission.
Speculative consciousness is not restricted to arranging
data received from the physical sciences alone. It would do the
same with data received from the social sciences, as well as the
theological sciences. Its sole preoccupation is to put all data
into a melting-pot regardless of the source and regardless of
accuracy, and come out at the other end with a world-view.
Every data received is treated as immanent2 in that world-view,
because every data is nothing more than a part among parts or a
link among links that are put together to form the world-view.
The implication here is that speculative consciousness cannot

There is no need to complicate the discussion here with the introduction
of matter, anti-matter, particles, anti-particles, quarks, anti-quarks and
such other concepts from Physics.
H{ulu>l. If a thing or quality is immanent in something else, then that thing
or quality cannot exist or cannot be imagined without that something else.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

entertain the idea that anything or anyone could be

transcendent1 in nature. It does however exercise its freedom to
indulge in any concept presented to it, be that the existence of
Allah, or life after death, or heaven and hell, or immortality, or
indeed anything that refers to the world of Unseen.
Speculative consciousness may accept any or all of
these concepts that are usually promoted by religion and
theology, but in its world-view such concepts (including the
existence of Allah) would remain immanent in their nature. In
other words, if a religion presents a transcendental view of
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, speculative consciousness would not only
ignore that, it would apply all possible logic to bring Allah
down to the level of immanence.2 Despite all the exceptional
attributes, Allah would still belong to the same genre as would
the rest of the creation. So, in the final analysis, creation would
be nothing less than an eventual transformation of Allah.
Likewise, Allah would be nothing more than the essence of
creation. It is just like the essence of Hydrogen that runs
through all the elements of the Periodic Table, although the
properties of Lawrencium are so vastly different from the
properties of Hydrogen. Or, like the essence of the unicellular
amoeba, that is so deeply linked with the evolution of the most
complex living organisms.
This is typical of speculative consciousness. In any
chain of events it labours to identify the link where it all
started. So, in the growth of elements, it accepts Hydrogen as

It refers to existence beyond the practical experience of ordinary people;
that which cannot be discovered or understood by ordinary reasoning;
for example, the transcendental nature of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.

3.03 - Religious Consciousness and Speculative Consciousness

the first element. In the evolution of organisms, it considers

amoeba as the most primitive form. Its happiness lies in the
assurance that these were indeed where it all commenced. If at
a later stage, something else enters the equation with
conclusive proofs, it will make room for that in the picture it
wants to paint. The bottom line is, that speculative
consciousness cannot think of anything other than
transformation or evolution or immanence. This modus
operandi is clearly discernible in its indulgence with the overall
world-view as well. When it accepts Allah as the starting point
(not in all cases though) from where the picture of its world-
view emerged, it does not see Him as transcendent to the
creation. As a result, it does not see the creation as created out
of nothing. In other words it looks at creation as a gradual
transformation of the Creator Himself. Crudely put, it takes it
for granted that the Creator could only become something, not
create anything ex nihilo. In Philosophy, this view is known as
Pantheism, i.e. the idea that Allah is in everything or
everything is Allah.1 It is not an over-statement to say that the
compulsion of this idea is inherent in Philosophy.

Hama U<st.

3.04 A Christian Scholar on Speculative

At this stage of the study, it would be interesting to see

what a Christian thinker has to say on this matter. Ellen G.
White, wrote the following:1
One of the greatest evils that attends the quest for
knowledge, the investigations of science, is the disposition to
exalt human reasoning above its true value and its proper
sphere. Many attempt to judge of the Creator and His works by
their own imperfect knowledge of science. They endeavour to
determine the nature and attributes and prerogatives of God,
and indulge in speculative theories concerning the Infinite One.
Those who engage in this line of study are treading upon
forbidden ground. Their research will yield no valuable results
and can be pursued only at the peril of the soul.
The field into which Satan led our first parents is the
same to which he is alluring men today. He is flooding the
world with pleasing fables. By every device at his command he
tempts men to speculate in regard to God. Thus he seeks to
prevent them from obtaining that knowledge of God which is
Pantheistic Theories: Today there are coming into
educational institutions everywhere spiritualistic teachings that
undermine faith in God and in His word. The theory that God is
an essence pervading all nature is received by many who

Ministry of Healing, Chapter 36, Danger in Speculative Knowledge, page
283, Harvestime Books.

3.04 - A Christian Scholar on Speculative Consciousness

profess to believe the scriptures; but, however beautifully

clothed, this theory is a most dangerous deception. It
misrepresents God and is a dishonour to His greatness and
majesty. And it surely tends not only to mislead, but to debase
men. Darkness is its element, sensuality its sphere. The result
of accepting it is separation from God. And to fallen human
nature this means ruin.
The spiritualistic theories concerning God make His
grace of no effect. If God is an essence pervading all nature,
then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man
has only to develop the power within him. . . These theories . . .
make man his own saviour . . . and make Gods word of no
effect. . . They may regard virtue as better than vice; but,
having shut out God from His rightful position
position of sovereignty,
they place their dependence upon human power, which, without
God, is worthless. The unaided human will has no real power to
resist and overcome evil. The defences of the soul are broken
down. Man has no barrier against sin. When once the restraints
of Gods word are rejected, we know not to what depths one
may sink.
Searching into Divine Mysteries: The revelation of
Himself that God has given in His word is for our study. This
we may seek to understand. But beyond this we are not to
penetrate. The highest intellect may tax itself until it is wearied
out in conjectures regarding the nature of God, but the effort
will be fruitless. This problem has not been given us to solve.
No human mind can comprehend God. None are to indulge in
speculation regarding His nature. Here silence is eloquence. The
Omniscient One is above discussion. . . And human beings are
not to intrude into the secrets of the Most High. We are as

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

ignorant of God as little children; but, as little children, we may

love and obey Him.
The Mysteries of Nature: Men of the greatest intellect
cannot understand the mysteries of God as revealed in nature.
Divine inspiration asks many questions which the most
profound scholar cannot answer. These questions were not
asked that we might answer them, but to call our attention to
the deep mysteries of God and to teach us that our wisdom is
limited; that in the surroundings of our daily life there are many
things beyond the comprehension of finite beings.
Sceptics refuse to believe in God because they cannot
comprehend the infinite power by which He reveals Himself.
But God is to be acknowledged as much from what He does not
reveal of Himself, as from that which is open to our limited
comprehension. Both in divine revelation and in nature, God
has given mysteries to command our faith. This must be so. We
may be ever searching, ever enquiring, ever learning, and yet
there is an infinity beyond.
End quote

The above passages show a genuine regard to the

position of God.
God Ellen G. White is not alone in this. Great
depths of comprehension have been expressed on this matter by
theologians and adherents of many other religions. However,
under the influence of speculative consciousness, they have not
been able to separate God from creation in the absolute sense of
the word. For example, it is an established fact that
Incarnation1 is one of the foundations of the Christian faith.
The difference between Incarnation and the pure and simple

I.e. God assumed the form of Jesus Christ, and entered human history.

3.04 - A Christian Scholar on Speculative Consciousness

Pantheism is a matter of degrees, and not of kind. While

Pantheism is the result of the philosophical approach to
incorporate God in the scheme of things, Incarnation is the
glorification of the same idea in Theology, with a touch of
holiness about it. It is the same in Hinduism as in Christianity
and some other religions. Roughly speaking, for them, theology
is the philosophy of the scholars of religious scriptures. In
Philosophy, God remains as an Idea at best, as one of the pieces
in the cosmic jigsaw puzzle; but other than that, He is lost from
our religious experience. In the theology of Incarnation, God is
often highly glorified, but never fully separated from the
created world.
Ellen G. Whites assertion that the field into which
Satan led our first parents is the same to which he is alluring
men today, is worth repeating here. Indeed, it was Satan who
led man to think differently different to what Allah told him
or taught him. On occasions when that happened, Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la> corrected the wrong notions by sending another man, a
Prophet,1 whom Satan could not corrupt. Naturally, during their
ministry, the Prophets were surrounded by disciples from all
walks of life. Those disciples who took the prophetic messages
forward were men of pious dedication. In the subsequent
generations of the followers, there arose great men of learning.
These were the people whose primary task was to preserve the
teachings in their memory,2 or to write them down on scrolls.
Many of them came to be regarded as Sages; and since they
were the later-day representatives of the Prophets, their words

A Prophet is one to whom Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> communicated what to
believe (the doctrines) and what to practise.
Indeed for the major part of human history that was the only method.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

and deeds were of paramount importance to the followers. By

and large, these Sages presented the teachings in bewitching
speeches, writings and enlightening poetry.
Left to enjoy the dizzy heights of authority, nothing
stopped many of these Sages from inserting their own
subjective interpretation and speculation into the original
teaching. Indeed, all the while Satan did whisper treacherous
ideas into their ears. A cocktail of scriptural knowledge and
speculative knowledge was then dished out to the devotees in
an attractive language and an overwhelming logic, and that
became the new Religious consciousness. Among many trivial
modifications, what suffered most in the process was the
understanding of Allah.
Allah The inherent limitation of speculative
consciousness as we have noted before was the main cause of
their deviation, which eventually conducted them into the
dangerous region of blasphemy.
This was the common picture everywhere in the world.
And, as Ellen G. White has also pointed out, the game of giving
personal interpretation to the Words of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
began while the first man had not yet stepped out of Heaven.
Man has been given the extraordinary faculty of Intellect in
order to facilitate his understanding of the Divine Words.
However, Intellect is that vulnerable faculty that can easily be
influenced by the whispers of Satan. Therefore, although given
as an asset, Intellect became a liability in matters of responding
to the Words of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. It must also be added,
that the deviations thus caused were of myriad varieties
through the lands and through the ages. Hence, we find
irreconcilable differences in the understanding of Allah among
the believers of scriptures. Yes, all of them do believe in Allah,

3.04 - A Christian Scholar on Speculative Consciousness

even in the Oneness of Allah, and that is why some liberal-

minded philosophers promote the idea of the transcendent unity
of religions.1 However, they ignore the fact that their portrayal
of the Divine is certainly repugnant to the correct
understanding of Allah.
Some of these philosopher-turned-sages insist that Allah
is immanent in His own creation. Hence, anything can be
attributed with divine purity, and can be used to represent God
in matters of devotional worship. Indeed, human figures, male
and female, especially of those who, it is assumed, have
attained holiness, are adored as substitutes for God. Mythical
and historical figures like Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Rama,
Krishna, Sarasvati, Durga, Laxmi and others, are examples of
god in everyone. Yet, they insist that Allah is One. And they
insist that others do not understand the truth about this. Please
note the ramifications of immanence. As a matter of fact, the
concept of creation does not sit well with immanence, because,
in reality nothing has been created. The multiplicity around is
no more or no less than manifold transformations of God
Himself. God does not create anything; He becomes everything.
A similar idea is presented by the Christian faith.
Broadly termed as Incarnation, or the Epiphany2 of God in
human flesh, or the Word revealed in Jesus Christ, it is the way
God enters the phenomenal world. In this scheme, although
God does not become many, He certainly becomes more than
one. In effect, God reduces His transcendence from absolute to

Frithjof Schuon; also known as Shaykh Isa Nuruddin (1907-1998). See
Tajalli> or transfiguration.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

limited. Yet, these people insist that Allah is One; a formula,

they claim, others have not understood.
It is a historical fact that during the short ministry of
Jesus Christ (a), his constant headaches were the Scribes and
the Pharisees.1 Jesus (a) had strong words about the Pharisees,
and what awaits some of them. He said: For I tell you, unless
your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20,
Revised Standard Version). Indeed, the Scribes and the
Pharisees placed more importance on their own speculations,
while not hesitating to change the words of God. Jesus (a) also
said: Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For, you
tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier
matters of the Law,2 justice and mercy and faith; these you
ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind
guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew
23:23-24). In this, Jesus (a) was clearly pointing out their
pettiness in small matters of their own choice, and disregard of
the pillars of faith. These were the people who could not give
up their preference of paganism, even after centuries of labour
of the Prophets. The most notable of these Pharisees was Paul,
who it is said was personally converted by Jesus Christ (a) after
His resurrection. He went on to become one of the greatest
Christians of all time, a man who later wrote a large part of
what became the New Testament. In other words, he was the

Visit http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/pharisee.htm for Wayne Blanks
Who were the Pharisees? Basically, they were the custodians and
interpreters of Divine Law.
Law refers to the teachings based on the Torah, followed by the Jews.
Jesus Christ (a) came to correct and uphold the Law.

3.04 - A Christian Scholar on Speculative Consciousness

one who de-constructed Jesus (a)s teachings and introduced

paganism in it.
The interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that
indulgence in speculation has been the sole prerogative of the
sages, the priests, the rabbis, and the scholars of scriptures
everywhere in the world. Their version of the scriptures was
what the common masses received. By and large, it was beyond
the ability of the common people to detect the contaminations
introduced by the speculators. Nonetheless, whatever the
common people received got stored in their religious
consciousness, and became for them the immutable law. Hence,
the zeal, faith, trust, loyalty, sincerity, devotion and readiness
to sacrifice their lives that are displayed by the followers are so
common-place in all the lands. Indeed, it is not intended in this
study to deride the perfectly noble sentiments of the devotees
of any religion of the world. It is on the basis of this
extraordinary attachment to ones faith that some thinkers like
Frithjof Schuon have, as a result of their speculative liberalism,
discovered the concept of the transcendent unity of religions.
Indeed, conviction in ones faith, leading to spiritual
repose, does transcend the details of both the doctrines and
practices. So, love thy religion becomes the meeting ground
of the philosophers, regardless of what happens to the
understanding of Allah.
Allah Ironically, when asked about the
authority upon which such conclusions are drawn, the loyal
followers of those who contaminated religion with
speculations, harangue other people of being too rational.
They demand from others that faith comes before rationalism.
Unfortunately, they came to this realization only after they had
themselves destroyed religion. Islam on the other hand stresses

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

on the establishment of faith before it proceeds to promote

There are religious thinkers who have suggested a
synthesis of the various notions of God. They maintain that
every notion of God is based on deductions that are unique to
that notion; and despite its variance from other notions, it
represents a genuine view of the Divine. They even insist that
these notions can be unified under the banner of the Cross,
since the Symbolism of the Cross is essentially present in every
notion of God.2
The story in short is, that each time Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> sent a prophet correcting the wrong notions about
Himself, Satan countered Him by putting another novel idea
into the heads of the wise men. The story of Sa>miri>, a follower
of Mu>sa> (a) illustrates this point well. He picked up a handful
of dust from the footprint of Mu>sa> (a), and boasted that he
thought it was supernatural an age-old passion of inventing
the Essence of God in the created nature around us. He threw
the dust on the golden calf which uttered a lowing sound, or so
he led others to believe.3 In any case, the common practice that
caused long term damage to the teachings of the Prophets was

It is a guidance for those who ward off evil;


who believe in the Unseen. Su>rah Baqara, 2:2-3 (M M Pickthall

translation). This is part of the opening statement of the main text of the
Qura>n. The stress on thinking and pondering comes later in the Book.
Refer to Section One of this work. Ren Guenon; also known as Shaykh
Abdul Wahid Yahya (1886-1951). See his Symbolism of the Cross.


He said, I saw what they did not see, so I took a handful [of dust] from
the track of the messenger and threw it, and thus did my soul entice me.
Su>rah T{a-> ha>, 20:96.

3.04 - A Christian Scholar on Speculative Consciousness

the mutilation of scriptures, both written and remembered.1

Hence, the process of correction by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> on the
one hand, and mutilation by man at the behest of Satan on the
other, ran in parallel from the days of A<dam (a). All that the
misguided men had to do was to change the Words of Allah,
both in writing as well as in speech, i.e. dish out the product of
their own mind as Divine Words.
This sinister game had to be put to an end, and Allah,
the Most High did exactly that. He sent the Qura>n and the
Holy Prophet Muh}ammad (s}), and declared that these were to
be the last Book and the last Prophet. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
declared further, that no one will be able to mutilate this Book
until the end of time.2 Such a declaration of protection was not
made for any verbal or written teaching in the past. The
obvious meaning of this declaration was that although, the
previous teachings were not mutilated wholesale by any means,
they are now redundant. It is quite possible that In whatever
condition they are still extant, they do contain some Guidance
and Light. However, if anything of Guidance and Light is found
in them, that must also be found in the last Book, the Qura>n, in
a more complete and more perfect form. That in itself is a
sensible reason for setting aside every other scripture. In any
case, the most essential aspect of Allahs teaching, namely, the
understanding He revealed about His own position,
position is definitely
compromised in every religion other than Islam.

Certainly, there was a long time in human history when written scriptures
were not available.
2 We have, without doubt, sent down the

Message (the Qura>n); and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).
Su>rah H{ijr, 15:9.

3.05 Muslim Scholars
Scholars on Speculative

It would appear from the preceding that the believers in

Islam are now immune from the corrupt ideas around the
understanding of Allah,
Allah especially from the idea of His
immanence in the creation. Sadly, that has not been the case.1 It
is true that the written words of the Qura>n have not been
changed, since no one, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, can
change them. However, liberty has often been taken in
interpreting its meaning the meaning of the Mutasha>biha>t. No
one can deny that the language of the Qura>n is immensely
profound from a literary point of view. Even so, while the
intellectual elite cannot exhaust its unfathomable depths, it
remains accessible to the ordinary reader who can appreciate its
simple and direct meaning without too much of an effort.
However, that does not mean that the meaning of the text
changes as we go from an ordinary level of understanding to a
higher level. Therefore, a deeper meaning is nothing but a
better understanding of the subject-matter. That deeper
meaning cannot differ from the very obvious meaning which is
there for the ordinary people. If it differs, then something is
dreadfully wrong. If that should ever happen, it would be a clear

For instance, Martin Lings, also known as Shaykh Abu Bakr Sirajuddin
(1909-2005), wrote in his Splendours of Quran Calligraphy and
Illumination, Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, 2004: The difference
between man and all other creatures is that the latter merely reflect
various Divine Qualities, whereas man reflects the Divine Essence,
which comprises all the Qualities. He based this notion on the premise
that man was made in the image of God, an anthropomorphic Judeo-
Christian dogma.

3.05 - Muslim Scholars on Speculative Consciousness

indication that the reader is led astray by his own fanciful

Indeed, such deviations from the universally accepted
meaning of the Qura>n have taken place throughout the history
of the Muslims. But unlike all other scriptures of the past, a
return to the original meaning has always been possible,
because the text of the Qura>n remained incorruptible. There
have been times when wise men have fallen into the trap of
Satan, and in their blind zeal mesmerized the admirers with
their personal views. Eventually though, people did wake up to
their aberrations, and adopted the correct notions all over again.
History is witness to this ongoing phenomenon, both in the
domain of doctrines as well as practices.1 Be that as it may, the
present study is restricted only to the misinterpretations that
befell the doctrines related to the understanding of Allah.
As stressed earlier, Satan did lure wise men into
inventing meanings of Qura>nic passages which he convinced
them of harbouring some secrets. Such wise men got the clue
from the word Mutasha>biha>t or allegories, mentioned in Su>rah
A<l-i-Imra>n 3:7. They took it to mean something distinct from
the word Muh}kama>t or fundamentals, giving rise to the dualism
of esoteric and exoteric.2 It is interesting to know that these
words have been coined by those who love to glorify their

Aqa>id and Ama>l.
See http://www.kheper.net/topics/esotericism/esoteric_and_exoteric.htm.
Alan Kazlevs article on Esoteric and Exoteric. He says: In fact, the very
idea of a sharp Exoteric-Esoteric dichotomy is a recent one, developing
out of the Traditionalist School of Guenon, Schuon etc. on the one hand,
and Theosophy and later occult movements on the other.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

pastime as Perennial Philosophy.1 Abdullah Yusuf Ali smashed

the myth of such a distinction when he commented on the
above Verse (note no. 347):
This passage gives us an important clue to the
interpretation of the Holy Qura>n. Broadly speaking it may be
divided into two portions, not given separately, but
intermingled namely, (1) the nucleus or foundation of the
Book, literally the mother of the Book, and (2) the part which
is figurative, metaphorical, or allegorical. It is very fascinating
to take up the latter, and exercise our ingenuity about its inner
meaning, but it refers to such profound spiritual matters that
human language is inadequate to it, and though people of
wisdom may get some light from it, no one should be dogmatic,
as the final meaning is known to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> alone.
The commentators usually understand the verses of
established meaning (muh}kam) to refer to the categorical
orders of the Shari>at (or the Law), which are plain to
everyones understanding. But perhaps the meaning is wider:

Philosophia Perennis is the central concept of the Traditionalist School
formalized in the writings of Ren Gunon, Frithjof Schuon and Ananda
Coomaraswamy. The term philosophia perennis was first used in the 16th
century by Agostino Steuco in his book entitled De perenni philosophia
libri X (1540), in which scholastic philosophy is seen as the Christian
pinnacle of wisdom to which all other philosophical currents in one
way or another point. The idea was later taken up by the German
mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who used it to
designate the common, eternal philosophy that underlies all religions, and
in particular the mystical streams within them. The term was popularized
in more recent times by Aldous Huxley in his 1945 book: The Perennial
Philosophy. The Hindu revivalist notion of Sanatana Dharma has been
taken as a translation of philosophia perennis.

3.05 - Muslim Scholars on Speculative Consciousness

the mother of the Book must include the very foundation on

which all Law rests, the essence of Allahs message, as
distinguished from the various illustrative parables, allegories,
and ordinances.
If we refer to 11:1 and 39:23, we shall find that in a
sense the whole of the Qura>n has both established meaning
and allegorical meaning. The division is not between the verses,
but between the meanings to be attached to them. Each verse is
but a Sign or Symbol: what it represents is something
immediately applicable, and something eternal and independent
of time and space, the Forms of Ideas in Platos Philosophy.
The wise man will understand that there is an essence and an
illustrative clothing given to the essence, throughout the Book.
We must try to understand it as best we can, but not waste our
energies in disputing about matters beyond our depth.
End quote

The last sentence is very significant. We must try to

understand, i.e. we must move from simply knowing to
gaining realization. We must remember that such realization
is deeply personal, and cannot be transferred to others in
writing or speech. When realization is clothed in language, it is
bound to cause misunderstanding in the minds of the lesser
people, who by their very nature are prone to idolize the sages.
Therefore, nothing should be said or written which can be
construed to mean something different from what is
immediately understood. Despite that, the promoters of
Perennial Philosophy, the sages of the past and present, and the
lovers of the esoteric, never desisted from churning out tomes
to captivate their followers. Thus, instead of guiding the people
to the right path, they led them to heresy and blasphemy.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

It may be useful here to check the meaning of the word

esoteric as found in dictionaries. For example, Collins has it
as: What is known, understood, or appreciated by only a small
number of people. Oxford says: Meant for the initiated;
private, confidential. Bangla Academy puts it as: Only the
initiated can understand; not easily intelligible, obscure.
Obviously, it is not in the domain of the dictionaries to make a
qualitative judgment of the knowledge that is close to the heart
of the so-called initiated. Therefore, from these definitions, no
true assessment can be made of the adverse effects of the high-
sounding esoteric knowledge on the religious consciousness
of the devotees.
At this stage of the study, it is essential to undertake a
thorough examination of the contrast between speculative
consciousness and religious consciousness. The most
remarkable analysis of this perennial problem of the
encroachment of speculation in divine matters was produced by
a great Muslim scholar in 1940.1 A summarized version of that
ground-breaking work is given in the next chapter.
Both consciousnesses, religious and speculative,
function to attain a world-principle. This may also be termed as
a world-view or a composite whole or a unified picture or
simply a unity.
unity In the case of the religious consciousness, this
unity is comprised of whatever is in Creation, plus its Source,
i.e. the Creator, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. And as said earlier, the
picture of this unity is directly planted in human consciousness
through a communication from Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> Himself.

Burhan Ahmad Faruqi (1906-1995). The Mujaddids Conception of
Tawhid. Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan.

3.05 - Muslim Scholars on Speculative Consciousness

Needless to say, this unity is comprised of an understanding of

two major elements: one, the eternal Reality of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>, and two, the temporal reality of His creation. Between the
two, there is a vital difference; the existence of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> is a necessity (wa>jib al-wuju>d), whereas the existence of
all else is only a possibility (mumkin al-wuju>d). Hence the two
existences belong to two different genres.
On the other hand, the unity derived from the
speculative consciousness is comprised of how the world
expanded into what we know of it, plus a reference to its origin.
For the origin, as we shall see in the next chapter, a whole range
of possible concepts may be considered, in order that the
picture of unity could be rounded off. Even the concept of God
is often postulated1 or borrowed from religions, What is of note
here is that the essence or substance of the origin (even if it is
assumed to be God) is not different from the essence or
substance of its expansions, i.e. both the origin and its
expansions belong to the same genre.

To postulate a concept means to make an assumption which although
unproven is convenient in the build-up of an argument, and seems
agreeable. Since the objectivity of these concepts cannot be proved, they
have been reduced to the rank of mere Regulative Ideas by Immanuel
Kant (1724-1804), i.e., they regulate the discussion almost ad hoc, hence,
they do not have any real worth.

3.06 Differences between Speculative
Speculative Unity
and Religious Unity

The previous chapter has indicated that Speculative

Unity, which is the result of the efforts of Speculative
Consciousness or Philosophy, is generically different from
Religious Unity, which is the outcome of Religious
Consciousness as developed from Revelation. This chapter
gives an elaborate view of the most important differences
between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity in order that all
the misleading notions about the understanding of Allah can be
identified and removed from the psyche of the believers.

ONE: The first difference that comes out of the

foregoing is that the origin in speculative unity is non- non-
qualitative, i.e. quality is not something that the speculative
consciousness would seek for it. It may quibble over the
correctness of the origin, but it would settle on any one of them
as long as the unity (i.e. a completed picture) is supposedly
achieved. The only quality speculative unity should possess is
that multiplicity could be logically deduced from its supposed
origin. So, it does not matter whether the origin is water
(Thales); or matter undetermined1 (Anaximander); or air
(Anaximenes); or atom (Democritus); or being
(Parmenides); or idea of the good (Plato); or form
(Aristotle); or substance (Spinoza); or absolute idea (Hegel);
or abstract law (Kant); or ideas and sensations (Locke,

That is, matter which is still at the stage of a concept, and has not
materialized yet, i.e., has not become a fact yet.

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

Berkeley, Hume).1 That origin does not have to be numerically

one either. So, it could be one or many.2 However, it must be
admitted that in its purity and rigour, speculative consciousness
does at times yearn to deduce even qualities from the
primordial essence of the substance.3
On the other hand, origin in religious unity is earnestly
qualitative. The unity consists of Allah as the Creator, and
everything other than Allah as the Created; it means that Allah
and other-than-Allah belong to two different genres. More
importantly, while Allah is the origin, the Creation is not His
expansion from the point of view of existence, or any other
point of view. Therefore, the first quality that the religious
unity seeks and recognizes in Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is that He
must have the ability to create He must have the ability to
bring into existence anything and everything from sheer
nothingness and from absolute non-existence, i.e. He must be
the Kha>liq and Ba>ri> (Creator and Evolver).
Related to this is His quality of Faa>lul lima> yuri>d
(Doer of whatever He chooses to do), i.e. He must have the
complete freedom, both in His choice, and in His creation of all
the levels of existence be they material or non-material. In
these acts He is aided with the quality of A<limul ghayb wash-
shaha>dah, (Knower of everything, manifest or hidden). In spite
Thales 624-546 BC; Anaximander 610-546 BC; Anaximenes 585-528
BC; Parmenides 510-? BC; Democritus 460-370 BC; Plato 428-348 BC;
Aristotle 384-322 BC; Spinoza 1632-1677; Locke 1632-1704; Berkeley
1685-1753; Hume 1711-1776; Hegel 1770-1831.
Talking of many who could qualify as origins, think of the entire
community of gods in some religions. Speculative unity has no problems
with that, since the origins belong to the same genre as their expansions.
See Scientific Materialism in this connection.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

of His immense activity, nothing should affect His own

perfection and His absolute qualities, i.e. He must be al-Quddu>s
(the Holy). It is He who must be the Rabb and Razza>q
(Providence and Sustainer). Giving should not reduce His
treasures, so He must also be Dhul-Fad}l (the Gracious). In His
relationship with man, He must be the source of all guidance,
i.e. He must present Himself as al-Ha>di> (the Guide). In His
dealings with man and all other creatures, He must be ar-
Rah}ma>n (the Beneficent). He must also have the quality of
overlooking and forgiving the failures of man, i.e. He must be
Ghafu>rur Rah}im
> (the Pardoner and the Merciful). With all
these and many other qualities, He must be the only Mabu>d
(Object of worship). Indeed, the religious unity demands that
with all these qualities, Allah, the Origin, must be numerically
one, i.e. He must be al-Ah}ad (the One).

TWO: In the speculative unity, the origin, by virtue of

its extensions or expansions, is immanent in the final picture
or the world-view. It means that the origin (water, air, idea, etc.
as mentioned before) has no existence of its own over and
above the multiplicity that it has assumed. It is wholly
exhausted in the eventual aggregate. It becomes a fact only in
things, which are conceived as its instances. By and large, the
origin is an abstract concept, which has either no existence of
its own, or is fully spent in its multiple instances.
On the other hand, Origin in the religious unity, i.e.
Allah, the Creator, who caused the Creation to come into
existence from nothing, remains transcendent. It means that
the Creator in His essence and qualities does not descend into
the level of Created beings, nor does the Creation get elevated

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

to the rank of divinity. So, Allah is over and above the world
and man. Within the unity, He is wholly the Other. It is for this
reason, that in times of despair, man seeks help from a Source
other than the sources of his trouble, which originate in the
nature around him as well as in his own nature. That is why
religious consciousness postulates the existence of a Being who
has full control over the entire world of men and things, and
who can provide succour in mans difficulties.

THREE: Speculative unity is monistic. In it, the

origin and the resultant multiplicity form a single existence
together. There is no being over and above this aggregate. This
is known as monism, for, speculative consciousness can only
conceive of the world as one, or as differentiation of the one.
Therefore, the Real is single, individual, and numerically one.
The Real is the whole, which does not exist over and above the
parts. It is only the organization of the parts, i.e. it is incapable
of existing in its own right. Consequently, the origin is raised to
the dignity of the substance1 which is immanent in the parts,
which are the modes or manifestations or adjectives of that
substance, and which have no being of their own.

Religious unity is necessarily dualistic. In it, the

Origin, i.e. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, has His own transcendental
existence, while His creation has a separate existence which is
given by Him. As indicated above, the reason for postulating
the existence of a transcendent Being is that man is not only
disappointed with the limitations of his own self, he is also
Depending on the school of philosophy, spirit rather than substance could
be the origin. In that case, the whole would be an Infinite Spirit, while the
finite spirits together would be conceived as numerically identical with it
something of a reproduction or re-realization of the Infinite Spirit.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

frustrated with the hostile nature of the world around him.

Therefore, in order to realize his yearnings, he wants to be in
harmony with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> alone. It implies that Allah,
the transcendent Origin on the one side, and the universe and
man with their given existence on the other, must be
fundamentally different in nature. One is Perfect, the other
imperfect. Both exist, but One is other than the other.
If Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and His creation were a single
whole, then He would only be an aspect of the manifold; i.e. in
that case He would not exist in His own right, only the
manifold would. If Allah was the substance or spirit, then the
world and man would only be His immanent expressions, hence
essentially identical with Him. There would then be no room
for man to have a separate existence, nor any specific religious
yearning, because, the object of such yearning would already be
a realized fact, or it would be realized without any ado, and
without any external help. In that case, there would be no need
for religion or religious yearning. That is why religious unity
cannot afford to be monistic; it must be dualistic. It must assert
the existence of the imperfect on one side, and the Perfect on
the other. It cannot permit the evaporation of the one, or of the

FOUR: Origin in the speculative unity tends to be

impersonal, whereas in the religious unity it must be
personal, i.e. it must have a personality.
In the case of religious unity, personality of the Origin
implies that it must possess self-consciousness of the highest
order, i.e. it must be conscious of itself as over and above
anything else; indeed, as transcending everything. Still, it is

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

hard to conceive of personality in a self-conscious being if it

cannot determine its own action according to the principles of
morality, which require that actions can only be judged for their
moral value if they are performed with freedom. Only in that
case, i.e. possessing total freedom, such a personality could be
seen as absolutely just, as well as holy. It must be stressed
again that a personality embellished with absolute justice but
devoid of freedom, would seem to be bound by the doctrine of
karma,1 whereas religious consciousness demands that that
personality should be capable of not only justice but also of
grace.2 Grace forms the distinctive feature of personality. Even
in human situations, one who always gives ones dues in full
measure not less, yet never more is regarded as lacking in
personal elements. On the contrary, religious consciousness
seeks that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> should be eminently personal.
While He should indeed be aware of our conditions and our
yearnings, He should also have grace, i.e. He should be capable
of satisfying our yearnings in spite of our shortcomings and
karma i.e. in spite of our failure to deserve what we yearn for.
On the other hand, speculative unity is not interested in
personality, i.e. it is immaterial to it whether its origin (which
could be a whole or a substance or a spirit) is personal or
impersonal. If it is a whole, it could be any kind of whole. If it

Karma is the theory of inevitable consequences of ones actions. The
Indian thinkers universally accepted and adopted the doctrine of Karma in
all the major religious systems originating in India, namely, Hinduism,
Buddhism and Jainism. Though the emphasis varied, all these major
systems gave a prime place to the Doctrine of Karma in the scheme of
things spiritual, pertaining to each system.
Fad{l or grace. The Qura>n is replete with its mention throughout a
singularly unique feature of the doctrine of Islam.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

is a substance, again it could be any kind of substance;

evidently devoid of the quality of self-consciousness
(Spinoza). Only as a spirit, origin may look like a person. But
here the religious interest is at work. Albeit, any attempt to
ascribe a kind of transcendence to such a spirit turns out to be
nominal, because in speculative consciousness the demand for
immanence remains compulsive. In a philosophical system or
scheme like that, the spirit is not the other of anything else;
conversely, no being is other than the spirit. Thus, the presence
of self-consciousness in the origin, which is deemed as spirit in
this case, becomes a doubtful proposition. That is why the
idealist philosophers are strongly inclined to refuse personality
to the immanent spirit. By extension, the speculative
consciousness is loath to ascribe freedom to it, because in this
scheme it is logical to say that freedom is identical with
necessity. In fact, the idea of necessity alone fits better in the
speculative consciousness; hence, any consideration for grace
finds no room in it. To cut a long story short, all the elements
of personality, namely, self-consciousness, freedom and grace
are dreadfully jeopardized by the limitations of speculative
consciousness, in favour of the rigid views of necessity and
FIVE: The fourth difference above, between
speculative unity and religious unity, has indicated that the
Origin in the religious unity must have absolute freedom. In
turn, it must admit of moral freedom for man. On the contrary,
in speculative unity, the origin is neither free, nor does it leave

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

any room for human freedom. In other words, the principle of

necessity1 remains supreme in this scheme.
Absolute freedom means complete independence in
determining the mode of activity. It also means the absence of
any external restraint and internal constraint. Religious
consciousness conceives of Allah as a perfect Being, therefore,
He is morally perfect, has grace, and is self-sufficient. If He was
devoid of freedom, the various forms of grace, namely,
beneficence, sustenance, guidance, mercy, forgiveness, and the
like, would issue from His nature out of sheer necessity, i.e.
they would come to us without any yearning from us. In that
case, they would hardly deserve to be called grace. From the
moral standpoint, a grace like that would be of a lower kind
than the grace which even man is capable of showing.
Another requirement of freedom is self-sufficiency, and
that is exactly what the religious consciousness expects in
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Hence, He is as}-S{amad, the infinitely
Self-Sufficient. It means, Allah does not need anything, not
even the exhibition of any attitude or action towards other
beings. What He does for man is absolutely unselfish, therefore,
absolutely free. So much so that He has made a provision for
mans freedom as well. In doing so, Allah does not lose
anything. Indeed, man must be free, since he is created by Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> to yearn for moral perfection, and to seek His
Contrary to this, speculative consciousness yearns for
nothing other than necessity, such that multiplicity could be
strictly deduced from its monistic unity. When the unity is an
Necessity here means that which is inevitable or predetermined.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

existent object or substance, the origin is conceived as the

cause, from which the entire world process proceeds on the
principle of causality. It has no room for mans freedom. When
the unity is a rational concept or idea, multiplicity is derived
from the origin on the principle of logical consequence. Again,
mans freedom finds no place in this logical compulsion. It is
only when the origin of the unity is seen as a spirit that freedom
for both the origin and man seems to be affirmed. However, this
view of freedom vaguely eliminates external restraints only,
while the compulsion of internal necessity remains which in
truth is no freedom.

SIX: This brings us to a subject of crucial importance

to the religious consciousness the yearning for immortality.
It is an extension of the yearning for perfection. Man cannot
attain to perfection in this short span of life by his own
endeavours unless the whole system of reality is transformed
into a new order. That is why religious consciousness
postulates immortality as well as the existence of Divine Being.
While immortality is the subjective condition of the
requirement of this postulation, existence of Divine Being is
the objective condition.
For the speculative consciousness, immortality is of no
consequence. Since it does not care about the qualitative nature
of the origin, nor of the multiplicity arising from it, therefore,
survival of the human soul is of no significance to it. Hence, all
attempts to determine the speculative unity, and tracing the
growth of multiplicity from it, are not only indifferent to the
immortality of human soul, they also tend to deny it strongly.
Even when the unity seems to attain self-subsistence, as in
idealism, survival of the soul after death is the survival of its

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

memory (or idea) in God, or it is the survival of that element

which is common to all the souls, i.e. the general idea. In every
case the soul is re-absorbed in God, so there is no question of

SEVEN: The origin in the speculative unity must be

absolutely knowable, because the speculative consciousness,
which in fact is knowledge consciousness, yearns to know
reality. When the empirically-minded1 steps into metaphysics,2
he grasps reality as fundamentally matter, or material, or
physical; in short, as an object of immediate perception. The
world-picture he constructs is called materialism. Alternatively,
he may consider psychical and mental sensations and ideas, i.e.
that which are apprehended in introspection, as fundamental,
and construct a view that is known as subjective idealism. As
for the rationalistically-minded,3 the world is grasped
comprehensively by the intellect as a system of concepts and
categories of the proper objects of thought, without leaving out
anything. The view he produces is called idealism. Then there is
the critical philosophy of Kant,4 in which the origin is
conceived as a Law from which all other laws could be
rigorously derived. Just as in idealism, it is an abstract object.

Empirical: Knowledge derived from or relying on observation and
experiment. Data is mainly gathered from the physical and social
Metaphysics; ma> badut}ta} bi>ya>t; beyond physics. It is the branch of
philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any
particular science.
Rationalistic knowledge comes from the exercise of reason, rather than
experience, authority, or spiritual revelation.
It is based on a critical method which requires that if one cannot prove
that a thing is, he may try to prove that it is not.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Although it is fully grasped by thought, it is only a regulative

idea that has no objectivity, because it merely regulates a
discussion almost ad hoc. In summary, whatever unity is
envisaged by the speculative consciousness, it is claimed to be
broadly known and knowable.
On the other hand, the Origin in the religious unity is
only partly knowable. It need not be wholly knowable. The
religious consciousness seeks a being who could protect and
guide and help man in the world-situation in which he finds
himself. However, the attributes requisite for this purpose
constitute only those aspects of the nature of the Origin which
are recognized and known and are related to human situation.
They are neither all the attributes, nor do they necessarily
define the absolute (i.e. total and complete) nature of the
Origin. Moreover, the attitude of humility towards the Origin,
and His immense grandeur lead man to realize that the Origin
surpasses the grasp of his tiny faculties, and is essentially
Mans religious consciousness has to confess that no
one knows Allah except He.1 Indeed, the religious
consciousness in its highest form, namely Revelation, holds
that Allah, the Origin, is not at all knowable, even in relation to
us. The Qura>n says in Su>rah T{a-> Ha: They cannot encompass
Him with their knowledge.2 It means, He is neither knowable in
His existence, nor with regard to His attributes that relate to
us; such matters are beyond human experience. However,
religious consciousness does postulate Allahs existence and

La> yalamohu> illa> hu>.
Su>rah T{a-> Ha, 20:110. Muhammad Asad translation.

3.06 - Differences between Speculative Unity and Religious Unity

attributes, because it is convinced of all that; hence, it believes

in all that. But, there is no question of knowledge per se.
EIGHT: The speculative consciousness advances a
lifestyle of contemplation, meditation, quietude, retreat,
isolation, and the like. Once the speculative unity is grasped, it
brings all activity to an end. When the unity (i.e. a picture in
which the origin and its manifestations are united) is grasped as
perfect, there remains no room for activity.1 However, when the
unity is conceived as imperfect, there arise two alternatives.
One, in which the unity is seen as inherently imperfect, i.e. its
course is predestined by its inner necessity, all exertion to make
it perfect would be futile. The other, in which the unity is seen
as moving towards perfection gradually, it would of necessity
grow perfect, so no human activity would be required for its
perfection. As mentioned earlier, the speculative consciousness
is in fact knowledge consciousness, and knowledge in itself
produces contemplation, not activity.
On the other hand, religious consciousness arouses
yearning, struggle and activity. The yearnings in the soul of
man face insuperable obstacles from his own nature and from
the world around. In order for the realization of these yearnings,
the need for religious unity has arisen in him, in which Allah,
the Origin, inspires him, with His help and guidance, to active
struggle against these obstacles. The struggle aims at bringing
his own nature and the whole order of the world in harmony

For an example from comparative Theology, see the Hindu concept of
Manvantra in Wikipedia (quoted in Section One of this work). It
describes the endless cycle of birth and death; i.e. a non-stop alternation
of the appearance of multiplicity as the external modes of the origin and
then their disappearance as its (i.e. the origins) internal thoughts.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

with the Divine Will. In fact, the struggle, rather than the
harmony achieved, leads to the gradual realization of the
yearnings. From the moral point of view it can be said that
struggle is not just a means to achieve realization, in itself it is
realization. Be that as it may, the task is so gigantic that it
must continue till the end of the world. In short, religious
consciousness is yearning; it is yearning to become something,
to get to something, and to bring about something. Contrasted
with knowledge consciousness, it really is practical
consciousness, which by design generates activity.
A summary of the above differences between the
speculative unity and the religious unity is given in the table
Speculative Unity Religious Unity
1 The origin is Non- The Origin is Qualitative
2 The origin is Immanent The Origin is Transcendent
3 The Unity is Monistic The Unity is Dualistic
4 The origin is Impersonal The Origin is Personal
5 The origin is not Free The Origin has absolute
6 No concept of Immortality Immortality is intrinsic
7 The origin is Knowable The Origin is Partly
8 Promotes Contemplation Promotes Activity

3.07 The Effects of Speculative
Consciousness on the Religious Unity of

In the introductory pages of this work it was stated that

Allah, the Most High, sent Prophet after Prophet in order to
give mankind a flawless religious unity. But men of spiritual
and intellectual authority contaminated that view with their
own thoughts, unwittingly or otherwise. It was not just the
interpretation of the sages that went wrong. To complicate the
matter, the original text of the message from Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> was also mutilated, both in memory and in writing. It is
interesting to note that the Hadith literature puts the number of
Prophets to 124000. Another version puts the number to
140000. A simple application of arithmetic to this number gives
us an astonishing result. For example, if mankind has lived on
this earth for 14000 years before Prophet Muhammad (s), it
would mean that on an average ten Prophets were sent to the
world every year. Also, the number of Prophets to specific
communities would be staggering, considering the uneven
concentration of population in various parts of the world.
Indeed, the Qura>n declares: To every people was sent a
Messenger.1 Perhaps every people here indicates every
generation of a people, for if it includes many generations of
the same people in the same location, then it is quite likely that
not a Messenger, but many Messengers were sent to every
people. But Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> knows best!

Su>rah Yu>nus, 10:47.


The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Obviously, the task of these Prophets was to hand down,

among other important matters, an unadulterated picture of the
religious unity, thereby restoring the correct understanding of
Allah Concurrently however, the Scribes and Pharisees
syndrome remained at work in full force. These were the
custodians and interpreters, or the clerics and sages, (known as
the Ulama and Mashaikh among the Muslim brotherhood),
whose task was to dilute the message for easy consumption by
the masses. Their prerogative led them to inject some wayward
thoughts of their own into the religious consciousness of the
devotees. On their part, the lay followers accepted and upheld
whatever doctrines and practices were presented to them, with
unquestionable zeal and loyalty. By and large, the lay followers
were not the ones who damaged the essence of religion. On the
contrary, they stood as a bulwark to defend their faith, and
sacrificed their lives and property for the sake of what they
were led to believe. Generally speaking, they were happy with
whatever made a permanent home in their religious
consciousness, not knowing the subtle differences between
religious unity and speculative unity, or the mixture thereof.
Nevertheless, it was only when the inequities of their doctrines
and practices reached an incorrigible level, that a new Prophet
was sent to them to overhaul the Message.
It had never been an easy passage for the new Prophets,
for, the vested interest of the Scribes and Pharisees put up
resistance in every possible form, including going underground
when needed, and working as secret societies. Thus the cycle of
prophetic messages on the one side, and their struggle to
survive against odds on the other, continued; until all the tricks
of the detractors were exposed in a single teaching which laid

3.07 - The Effects of Speculative Consciousness on the
Religious Unity of Islam

out the most complete and perfect form of doctrines and

practices, i.e. in the form of the supremely infallible religious
unity. The Qura>n summarizes this phenomenon in one
comprehensive Verse, thus: Blessed is He Who has revealed
unto His Slave the Criterion (of right guidance and wrong), that
peoples 1 [Adapted from M. M.
he may be a Warner to all the peoples.
Pickthall]. Instead of: that HE may be a Warner, Yusuf Alis
translation has it as: that IT may be an Admonition. He writes,
quite correctly, that: The pronoun in yaku>na may refer either
to Furqa>n (the Criterion) or to Abd [the Holy Prophet (s)]. In
either case, the ultimate meaning is the same. The Qura>n is the
standing Criterion for judgment between right and wrong.
[Note: 3054].
However, by the time the Qura>n came down, large
tracts of the world had already become well-fortified
strongholds in which their sages had become household names.
They were the folk heroes, and were worshipped with the
highest degree of reverence. Their words were trusted without
question; their wisdom without challenge. They abandoned the
words Islam and Muslim,2 and, in order to become exclusive,
they chose for themselves and their religion names that were
strictly tribal and not universal. The resistance created by the
sages of the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Confucians, Taos,
Shintos, Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Magians, Aztecs, Incas,
and hundreds of Pagan societies in the world have always been
formidable, hence, their mutilated thoughts have never been
completely rooted out. Instead, these sages hibernated, worked

Su>rah Furqa>n, 25:1.

It is He (Allah) Who has named you
Muslims; both before and in this (Revelation). Su>rah H{ajj, 22:78.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

out strategies, and supported by the Jews and Christians of the

powerful West, remained afloat in the form of Perennial
So, while Allah, the Exalted, declared: The Religion
before Allah is Islam,1 and, in order to establish that, He sent a
long series of Prophets in every age and every location, the
rebellious sages continued to fine-tune their philosophy, and in
clear-cut contempt for Qura>n 25:1 as quoted above, had the
audacity to call their product perennial, i.e. lasting. Indeed, it
was fit to be called perennial defiance. All the same, the effect
of that claim and publicity on the minds of the intelligentsia
was enormous. Eventually, the philosophers issued an assurance
that it was the will of Allah to let various religions prosper in
their own regions; that considering their popularity and long
survival, these religions were perfect and complete within
themselves; that they were nothing but Islam in different forms,
hence, it would be acceptable to choose from anyone of them
that suited ones temperament; and that the Islam of todays
Muslims had no supremacy over anyone of them.
It must be stressed ad infinitum, that the loyalty and
devotion of the adherents of these religions is not to be doubted
in the least. Each person among them must be respected, even
admired, for his genuine spiritual quest and affiliation.
However, at the same time, in order to restore the correct
understanding of Allah,
Allah the effects of speculative unity,
wherever found, and to whatever degree, must also be pointed
out. To wit, the distinctions between speculative unity and
religious unity must not be obliterated, in order that man could

Su>rah A<l-i-Imra>n, 3:19.


3.07 - The Effects of Speculative Consciousness on the
Religious Unity of Islam

develop an insightful consciousness of the true Reality of Allah,

the Most High.
This study is not so much concerned with what the non-
Muslim sages of Perennial Philosophy, and for that matter the
sages of any religion say about the concept of a transcendental
God in Islam. Together, they do indeed speak in one voice,
although between them they may speak differently on matters
of practice. In any case, it was the Perennial Philosophy
syndrome that caused the religions the same fate in accepting
Gods immanence, and it was Perennial Philosophy again that
assumed the role as their defence advocate. Be that as it may,
the real matter of concern in this study is how some Muslim
sages were also overcome by the results of their speculative
consciousness, regardless of whether they were influenced by
others or they were purely on their own.
Existence as a whole1 has been depicted by some
Muslim mystics2 in a language which has all the features of the
speculative unity described in the previous chapter, especially
as monistic. It means that Allah and other-than-Allah together
represent a single entity; in other words, Allah is immanent in
everything. In Philosophy, this is known as pantheism, i.e. God
in everything. In the Persian language, the expression is Hama
U<st, or He is everything; while in the Arabic language it is
Wah{dat al-Wuju>d, or Unity of Existence, or unityism.

That is, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> plus other-than-Allah (ghayrulla>h); the
Creator plus the creation; the Origin plus the existential facts and
A mystic is one who uses spiritual reason to fulfil his yearning to know
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

It must be stressed here that the inherent differences

between speculative unity and religious unity have escaped the
philosophers and the mystics alike. The philosopher used
logical reason to understand Reality, and ended up in a
speculative unity in which the origin (like the Substance of
Spinoza or Idea of Hegel) was often promoted to Divine
heights divine, since he was not unaware of his own dormant
religious consciousness. On the other hand, the mystic used
spiritual reason1 to understand Revelation, and ended up in a
speculative unity in which the Origin was, of necessity,
demoted to the level of immanence, since he was not altogether
unaware of his own dormant speculative consciousness.
In the case of a Muslim mystic, it is certain that his
religious consciousness is formed on the basis of what has been
revealed to the Holy Prophet (s). So, he believes in Allah and
His attributes; he believes in life-after-death and his own
responsibility, and all the rest of the beliefs and practices.
However, there does arise in his soul a yearning to know Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, purportedly not the same as the ordinary
experience of knowledge. In this, the process of knowledge is
described as a transcendental experience called kashf wa
shuhu>d, i.e. it is an attempt to experience the transcendental by
spiritual reason, by which he can know Allah, and realize
Allahs nature as well. Both elements of knowledge, i.e.
experience and reason, play their role in this process, by virtue
of which the Muslim mystic passes over to the speculative
consciousness, hence, to knowledge consciousness, even though

Spiritual reason is the same as kashf wa shuhu>d, i.e. experience of the
transcendental through spiritual insight.

3.07 - The Effects of Speculative Consciousness on the
Religious Unity of Islam

in this case they (i.e. experience and reason) are deemed to be

As a result of this transition from religious
consciousness to speculative consciousness, all requirements of
speculative unity are fulfilled rather compulsorily.
Consequently, God becomes knowable and immanent, and
therefore the only existent.
Still, the Muslim mystic remains vaguely aware of the
religious unity that he has gathered from what was revealed to
the Prophet (s). He may or may not be aware of the confusion
that sets in because of his newly-found speculative unity.
Nonetheless, he presses on in favour of the speculative
attributes, and feigns consistency in his thoughts.
It must be noted that his pursuit of mysticism is an
attempt to have a first-hand experience of what the Prophet (s)
was supposed to have experienced. He believes that the Prophet
(s) had a direct experience of Allah and Eternity. With that aim,
he takes on certain practices called muja>hidah or spiritual
exercises. Along the way, he may even acquire certain powers
to work miracles. In the main, he remains devoted to Islam and
its spirit.
However, the matter which is of interest to this study is
that the mystic believes that in due course he apprehends Allah
and the Eternal verities directly. He gets there through the
faculty of kashf wa ilha>m, or intuition and inspiration. In short,
the mystic supposedly comes to a direct contact with the
Divine Being. He proclaims that he has experienced the

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

immediate vision of Allah, and that he has reached the stage of

H{aqqul Yaqi>n.1
The mystic insists that kashf is qualitatively different
from reason. If that is so, then its reliability must be measured
by the criterion of the spiritual experience of the Prophet (s),
for, his was the highest and the truest experience. The
experience of the Prophet (s) is the standard that must be used
as the internal evidence of the validity or otherwise of the
findings of the mystic. As a matter of fact, a close look at the
kashf of the mystics, reveals that the result they arrived at had
all the features of speculative unity as opposed to religious
unity, albeit couched in Islamic terminology.
The example of Ba>yazi>d Bista>mi> (d. 261 A.H.) is well-
known. He is reported to have exclaimed: Holy am I, how great
is my Glory! 2 Similarly, Mans}ur> al-H{alla>j (d. 309 A.H.) said: I

H{aqqul Yaqi>n: literally, absolute certainty. With regards to the
knowledge of the Unseen, three varieties of yaqi>n or certainty have been
mentioned in the Qura>n: ilmul yaqi>n, ainul yaqi>n and h}aqqul yaqi>n.
To the mystics they represent the three stages of certainty. One finds
smoke, and is certain that there is fire; this is ilmul yaqi>n, or knowledge
of certainty. One sees fire with his own eyes, so he is more sure of the
existence of fire; this is ainul yaqi>n, or direct observation of certainty.
Finally, one puts his hand in fire and gets a burn, so he realizes the
existence of fire; this is h}aqqul yaqi>n, or absolute conviction of certainty.
With reference to the Being of Allah, the mystics believe that one passes
through similar stages of certainty and realization. Contrary to that, the
orthodox teaching of Islam maintains that none of these kinds of yaqi>n is
possible in the context of the Being of Allah.
Subh}an> i> ma> az}ama Sha>ni>. He is also reported to have said: Liwa>i>
arfao min liwa>e Muh}ammad (s) my flag is higher than the flag of
Muhammad (s). [Although often watered down by the devotees, it is not
acceptable to laud this kind of utterance even if it was said in a state of
intoxication (sukr). May Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> forgive us and protect us
from such audacity].

3.07 - The Effects of Speculative Consciousness on the
Religious Unity of Islam

am the Truth.1 The implication in these utterances is that the

relation between me and Allah is that of identity. Among the
mystics, the mantle of this trend was taken over most notably
by Shaykh Shaha>buddi>n Suhrawardi> (d. 578 A.H.),2 followed by
Muh}yiddi>n Ibnul Arabi> (560-638 A.H.),3 celebrated as
Shaykh al-Akbar or the Greatest Shaykh.
Ibnul Arabi> seems to have been the first to interpret
his own mystic experience of the Unity of Allah (Tawh}id> ) in
an intelligible language, and had strenuously maintained that
Wah{dat al-Wuju>d or Unity of Existence or Unityism was the
very essence of Islam. He tried to support his interpretation
with verses of the Qura>n and the sayings of the Prophet (s). In
view of that, this study may now be devoted to examine Ibnul
Arabi>s interpretation of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in order to see how
much of it is based on the pure religious consciousness
emanating from the teaching of the Prophet (s), and how much
of it resulted from the compulsions of speculative

Ana> l-H{aqq.
Famous for his Philosophy of Illumination, he was the author of
H{ikmat al-Ishra>q. He propounded the emanationist cosmology in which
all creation is a successive outflow from the original Supreme Light of
Lights (Nu>r al-Anwa>r).
Born in Murcia, Spain, Ibnul Arabi> died in Damascus. Author of some
400 books, his most famous works were Futu>ha} t> al-Makki>yah and Fus}us> }
al-H{ikam. He was denounced as a heretic in Egypt, and there was a move
to assassinate him there.

3.08 Tanazzula>t al-
al-Sitta or The Six

In the previous pages it has been amply clarified that the

religious consciousness resulting from the teachings of Islam
points to the existence of a dualistic religious unity. It means
that it recognizes the uncreated and independent existence of
Allah, the Creator, on the one side; and the created and
dependent existence of all else, on the other. It means that the
Creator is numerically one, and is unique by virtue of
possessing all the attributes of perfection. This, in a nutshell, is
Tawh}id> the Oneness of the absolutely transcendental Allah.
However, Shaykh al-Akbar Muh}yiddi>n Ibnul Arabi>s
conception of Tawh}id> points to a monistic speculative unity in
which what exists is nothing other than the Being of Allah. One
aspect of His Being is His Dha>t, which is His very essence or
substance or inward existence. The other aspect of His Being
comprises of His S{ifa>t, which are His attributes as perceived in
His outward existence. The world represents the outward
existence, and is identical with Allah, in the sense that it is the
Tajalli> or shining forth of His Light, or manifestation of His
inward existence.2 Therefore, Creation as commonly
understood, is a form of emanation or Tajalli> of Allahs Light.

Tanazzul (singular) means to lower oneself, i.e. to decline, decay or
demote. It should not be confused with tanzi>l, which means Revelation,
for example, of the Qura>n.
The underlying conception is that Allah is Light and His Light shines
forth, as if bodily, in many forms. Hence, Tajalli> may be translated as
eradiation, effluence, emanation, manifestation etc. In philosophical
terminology it is equivalent to Mode.

3.08 - Tanazzula>t al-Sitta or The Six Descents

Allahs Light shines on Itself. This is termed as Tajalli>

bi-Nafsihi>, illumination of His Being; one facet of which is
Tajalli>-i-Dha>t, illumination of His Essence, and the other
Tajalli>-i-S{ifa>t, illumination of His Attributes. With reference to
the mystic, it means the vision of the Light or illumination by
If the mystic is illuminated by the Light of (i.e. he has
the vision of) the Attributes of Allah, it is Tajalli> bi-S{ifa>tihi>.
If the mystic is illuminated by the Light of (i.e. he has
the vision of) the Essence of Allah, it is Tajalli> bi-Dha>tihi>.
The upshot of this speculative construction is that the
act of creation by the word kun (Be)1 is nothing but the
descent (tanazzul) of the Creator Himself into the being of
things. This idea was developed into a full-fledged theory by
Ibnul Arabi>. It was further elaborated by many of his
followers. Other mystics2 contributed to shape the theory into
what is now known as Tanazzula>
Tanazzula>t al-
al-Sitta or The Six
The Indeterminate Unity: Allah on His own was a
Pure Being whose Unity (Ah}adiyyah) was Indeterminate (La>
taayyun). In other words, He was the Unmanifest Absolute in a
Be! and it is! An emphatic expression of Allahs creative power
from out of nothing. For example: Surely, when He intends a thing, His
command is: Be, and it is! Su>rah Ya>-Si>n, 36:82. This expression is
used in seven other places in the Qura>n: 2:117, 3:47, 3:59, 6:73, 16:40,
19:35, and 40:68.
Notably Nu>ruddi>n Abdur Rah}ma>n Ja>mi> (1414-1492); author of, among
other works, Nafah}at> al-Uns (Breaths of Fellowship), that contain
Biographies of the Sufi saints; Yu>suf and Zulaykha, one of the seven
stories in his Haft Awrang, (Seven Thrones); and Lawa>ih}, a treatise on
Sufism, etc.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

state of Hahu>t, i.e. in a state of He-ness prior to manifestation.

In that state His Reality was unknown, and He was absolutely
inaccessible to, and untainted by, any perceptual determination.
Indeed, it is fatal to harbour a desire to know Him in a state
like that, or extremely unmannerly to seek to comprehend Him.
But, by virtue of His own desire, Allah Himself passed
through six descents in order to come out of His
indeterminateness, radiating many splendours. In other words,
He became Determinate in six stages, until He manifested
Himself in the external form of existence.
1. The Determinate Unity: This was the first
descent. In this state, a transition was established between
Allah as the Pure Being and all His existential manifestations.
In other words, He was now the Manifest Absolute in a state of
La>hu>t, i.e. in a state of God-ness after His first manifestation.
This was as yet a cognitive state during which the Unity
became conscious of Himself as Pure Being, i.e. His Unity
(Wah}dah) descended to become Determinate (Taayyun).
However, to this point His consciousness of Attributes (S{ifa>t)
was only general (ijma>li>), i.e. implicit. Here, the Pure Being
Himself was the Witnessing, the Witnessor and the
Witnessed, all in one.
Determinate Unity is also named as Reality of
Muh}ammad (s)1 or Light of Muh}ammad (s), because in this
state the Essence of Muh}ammad (s) is the sum-total of the
known reality.

H{aqi>qah al-Muh}ammadi>yah.

3.08 - Tanazzula>t al-Sitta or The Six Descents

2. The Determinate
Determinate Oneness: This was the second
descent. This was the state of Omnipotence (Jabaru>t) in which
Allah brought into His consciousness His Oneness (Wa>hi} di>yah).
He became conscious of S{ifa>t-i-tafs}il> i>, or Attributes in details,
i.e. His Attributes became explicit. The concept of the Reality
of Man springs up in this state.
The first two descents seem to be conceived as
conceptual or logical rather than actual, i.e. they were existent,
but only in the knowledge of Allah. These descents were
inclusive of all subsequent states, and were the fountain-head of
all later possibilities called existent essences (Aya>n-uth
Tha>bitah) by Ibnul Arabi>.1
The three states above were out of time. Here, the
distinction of Essence and its Attributes is only logical
(Mant}iqi>). Nonetheless, the Indeterminate Unity (Ah}adi>yah la>
Taayyun) is assumed to have descended into a state of
Determinate Unity (Taayyun-i-Wah}dah), and then into a state
of Determinate Oneness (Taayyun-i-Wa>hi} di>yah). After that
began the real actual descents.

3. The Determinate World of Spirits: This was the

third descent, called the Determination as Spirit or Spirits
(Taayyun-i-Ru>hi} )> . Here, the Unity descended further, and
assumed the form of spirits, i.e. in that state, the Godhead

Ayn, singular of Aya>n, is used by Ibnul Arabi> to mean essence.
Essence could be the concept of the nature of a thing, or the nature itself
of the thing. The later is something that exists (Tha>bitah), and may rightly
be called the existent nature of the thing. Therefore, for Ibnul Arabi>,
Aya>n are necessarily Tha>bitah, because they are posited as existent.
They are therefore existent essences.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

broke itself up into so many spirits, and became the world of

angels (Malaku>t).
4. The Determinate World of Ideas: This was the
fourth descent. While the world of Spirits is rarefied to the
utmost degree, the world of corporeal bodies is opaque to the
extreme. There is no connection between the two. Hence, to
provide that intermediate connection, the Godhead descended
into the World of Ideas, and became determinate as Ideas and
the ideal forms of everything (Taayyun-i-Mitha>li>). These
forms were less rarefied than the Spirits, but more rarefied than
their corporeal manifestations. In addition, they were equipped
with intelligence, therefore, they were fully perceptive and
5. The Determinate World of Bodies: This was
the fifth descent. The Indeterminate Unity descended further
and became Determinate as the world of bodies that yielded the
phenomenal or the physical beings (Taayyun-i-Jasadi>). This is
the universe that we know, which is the visible and external
manifestation of the Godhead.

6. The Determinate World of Mankind: This was

the sixth and final descent, in which the Godhead became
Determinate as humanity (Na>su>t). Man is the mirror of the
Beauty of Allahs Essence, as well as His Representative
(Khali>fah). Every object is the manifestation of Allahs Names,
i.e. Attributes, whereas man is the manifestation of His
Essence. And, among all human beings, the ultimate
manifestation of the Superego was in the holy personality of
Muh}ammad (s). It was his reality that the Divine Unity had
conceived when It became Determinate in the first descent.

3.08 - Tanazzula>t al-Sitta or The Six Descents

Caution: The personality of Muh}ammad (s) is the

known, while the Reality of Muh}ammad (s) is the Knower. One
is a possibility, the other necessity. One is z}ah> ir, the other is
ba>ti} n. Regardless of the language used, it would be unforgivable
if one failed to see the heresy in it.

3.09 Further Viewpoints of Wah{dat al-
In the previous chapter, the core of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d,
i.e. the six descents of the Godhead from His state of being
absolutely Indeterminate to His exhausting Himself into the
most finite, has been presented. The picture that is produced
could be likened to the process or stages of creation from the
very earliest to the very latest. However, the traditional
meaning of the word creation is lost in the speculative unity
so diligently presented by Ibnul Arabi>. The impression he
gives is more of a transformation, of the implicit becoming
explicit, of the potential becoming actual, in short, of the
hidden becoming manifest.
Now, Wah{dat al-Wuju>d may further be tested by
changing the point of view from descent to ascent, i.e. starting
from the point of view of the most Determinate, in order to see
if this doctrine changes its overall picture in any way. In other
words, it should be tested to see what it says about Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> in relation to the multiplicity around, or in
relation to the world, or man, or the very purpose of creation.

Unity and Multiplicity: In constructing his doctrine

of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d, Ibnul Arabi> maintains that the Dha>t or
Being of Allah is identical with His S{ifa>t or Attributes. In their
turn, S{ifa>t express themselves in tajalli>ya>t, i.e. manifestations
or modes which are the world and its objects. He arrives at the
same conclusion in another way. He says that the Divine
Names (Asma>-i-Ila>hi>) are identical with the Named
(Musamma>), and the Musamma> is the very Being of Allah.
Allah is manifold in His Names, but one in His Being. In other

3.09 - Further Viewpoints of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d

words, Dha>t (Being) is the same as Musamma> (Named), and

S{ifa>t (Attributes) are the same as Asma>-i-Ila>hi> (Divine
Names). This is so, because Ism or Name is nothing but the
description of an attribute of the object. Moreover, while
Allahs existence is manifold, His Being is a Conceptual Unity
(Ah}adi>yat-i-Maqu>lah). It requires the mystic to turn away
from the multiplicity in order to conceptually grasp Allahs
In any case, it is not difficult for the mystic to conceive
this, simply because he starts from a position that the created
beings are nothing but Allah Himself in self-emanation.

Allah and the World: Ibnul Arabi> holds that the

relation between Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and the world is one of
identity, i.e. they are not different from each other. On this
question, his approach is two-fold. In one approach, he proceeds
from the side of the world, i.e. he negates the world by holding
it as merely nominal, unreal, imaginary, and objectively non-
existent. Allah alone exists. He upholds that the world or the
multiplicity exists as the modes of the unity as Allahs modes
they do not have any existence of their own.1
In the other approach, Ibnul Arabi> proceeds from the
side of Allah, and maintains that the world is Allah. It is the
modes in which the unity has differentiated itself. These modes
exhaust the unity wholly; as a result, the unity has no existence

Al-aya>n ma> shammat ra>ih}ata min al-wuju>d. The essences which are
the existent nature of things havent got the slightest touch of reality
about them.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

over and above these modes.1 Therefore, the mystic should not
take the trouble of seeking Allah beyond this world.
To further explain his position, Ibnul Arabi> speaks of
Difference-after-Identity.2 However, for the mystic, one that
really exists may be called either Allah (when he is in a state of
identity), or the world (when he is in a state of difference) it
remains one and the same. Nevertheless, he allows for the
possibility that a lesser mind may not be able to differentiate
between the two, i.e. between identity and difference.
On the question whether the Godhead is transcendent or
immanent in relation to the world, Ibnul Arabi> denies the
primacy of any of these conceptions, because, according to him,
both of them imply duality of the existent. He says: if Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is posited either as transcendent or as immanent,
then His infinitude would be lost. Hence, both transcendence
(tanzi>h) and immanence (tashbi>h) should be affirmed as far as
Allahs relation to the world is concerned.3 In order to establish
this view, he introduces the concept of As}l-wa-Z{ill (Thing and
Ma> bado ha>dha> illa> l-adam il-mah}d}. There is absolute
nothingness beyond these modes.
Farq bad l-jam. Farq is a state of mind in which the mystic senses
being different from Allah and separate from Him. Jam is a state of
mind in which the mystic feels one with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. So, in
farq bad l-jam the mystic outgrows the stage of jam and feels
himself other than Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Tashbi>h means likeness. In theology it means attributing the likeness of
Creatures to the Creator, and that is Shirk. But with Ibnul Arabi> likeness
is the same as identity, hence, for him Tashbi>h means immanence.
Likewise, Tanzi>h means to purify. Theologically, it means that the
attributes of the Creatures cannot be ascribed to the Creator. Qura>n says:

Your Lord is holier than the qualities which
they ascribe to Him. ( Su>rah S{af> fa>t, 37:180). However, in Ibnul Arabi>
Tanzi>h comes to mean transcendence.

3.09 - Further Viewpoints of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d

its Adumberation or Shadow),1 in which Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is

As}l and the world is His Z{ill. Since Z{ill or Shadow is the
appearance of the As}l, it is As}l appearing, manifesting itself.
Therefore, the world is identical with Allah.

Allah and Man: Ibnul Arabi> holds that the relation

between Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and man is that of identity.
However, in contrast to the world, this identity assumes
immanence, because of Allahs Qurb or nearness to man. Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has said in the Qura>n: We are nearer unto him
than his life-artery.2 According to Ibnul Arabi>, this is a clear
statement that Allah Himself is the very essence of the limbs
and parts of man.
Ibnul Arabi> also quotes a Hadi>th that says: Allah
created Adam after His own image.3 So, to him it means that
man possesses all the attributes of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, i.e.
Allahs attributes are manifest in man; they are bodily there in
man. That is why, he continues, one who comes to cognize his
own self, comes to cognize his Lord.4 That is, knowledge of self
is knowledge of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Here, the reader may recall Shaykh Abu Bakr
Sirajuddins (Martin Lings) assertion quoted in an earlier
footnote in Chapter 3.05. It shows the influence of Ibnul
Arabi> on some sections of mystics down the ages.

In Ibnul Arabi>, Z{ill is used as equivalent to appearance. It is conceived
as Inika>s or Reflection, which is well-nigh equivalent to Tajalli> or
Su>rah Qa>f, 50:16.


Khalaqa l-A<dama ala> S{ur> atihi>.
Man arafa nafsahu> faqad arafa Rabbahu>.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Allah and the Purpose of Creation: According to

Ibnul Arabi>, the purpose of creation is the yearning on the
part of Allah to know Himself. He quotes a Hadi>th that says: I
was a hidden Treasure; I wished that I should be known, so I
created the creatures.1 So, he explains that the yearning to
know Himself is the yearning for self-perfection, which consists
in expression or realization of His own self through the
temporal and eternal qualities that manifest themselves in the
world-process, i.e. in actualizing all the qualities that were
potentially there in Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Thus, regardless of the starting point, Ibnul Arabi>s
views remain firmly grounded on Wah{dat al-Wuju>d a resolute
vision of pantheism.

Kunto kanzan makhfi>yan fa-ah}babto an orafa fa-khalaqtu l-khalq.

3.10 Wah{dat al-
3.10 al-Wuju>d in the Light
Light of

It has been repeated several times in the earlier chapters

that every revelation in the past had eventually been distorted
by the intrusions of human mind, i.e. by the speculative
consciousness of great sages all over the world. This state of
affairs was finally brought to an end by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
when He declared: We have, without doubt, sent down the
Message (the Qura>n); and We will assuredly guard it (from
misinterpretation).1 However, that declaration was not a
guarantee against the freedom of speculation that great minds
may still love to exercise, in order to probe into the mystical
meaning of the Message of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Therefore, any
deviant meaning that plays with the understanding of Allah, Allah
will surely be detected, sooner rather than later, because,
fortunately, the last revealed Message has remained unpolluted.
The presentation of revealed words in the language of
philosophy has always enthralled lesser minds, for whom it has
never been easy to separate the grain from the chaff. However,
in the subsequent ages there do arise genuine scholars who, by
the leave of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, restore the correct meaning
and import of the revealed words. And so it was with the
doctrine of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d among the mystics of Islam.
After its initial popularity among the mystics, concerns grew
about its validity and acceptability. Mystics who based their
experience solely on unadulterated religious consciousness, i.e.
Revelation, started to put words together to highlight its faults.

1 Su>rah H{ijr, 15:9.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

The most remarkable contribution in this effort was made by

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, famously known as Mujaddid-i-Alf-i-
Tha>ni> (971-1034 A.H.).1
In the beginning, like many other mystics, the Mujaddid
too was dazzled by the spiritual experience of Wah{dat al-
Wuju>d, i.e. that Allah exists, but is immanent in man and the
world, and that His relation with the world is one of identity.
Then he passed over to the stage of Adumberation, i.e. that the
world has a being of its own, though it is only the Z{ill or
shadow or semblance of reality; while Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is
the As}l or Real. At this stage, a sense of duality did arise.
Eventually, he passed over to the stage of Ubu>di>yah, or
Servitude the highest stage. The duality of Allah and the
world now became clear to him as the light of the day. He could
now see that the world and Allah are two; and that their
relation is not one of identity. It became clear to him that, any
mystic experience other than this, is subjective and unreliable,
hence, does not correspond to the objective reality. In the end,
he came to realize that to speak of an experience of Allah,
which the mystics do, is blasphemy. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is far
and far above the grasp of our faculty of reason and of spiritual
unveiling (kashf). Allah is beyond the Beyond, and again
beyond the Beyond.2 Neither His being nor His attributes are
directly knowable.
The only justification for mystic discipline that remains
now is not the possibility of the experience of the Divine, but
its leaning towards the purification of morals. The Mujaddid

Meaning, the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the second millennium of Islam.
Inna Lla>ha wara> al-Wara> thumma wara> al-Wara>.

3.10 - Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation

expressly realized that faith in the Unseen1 alone is the truth.

Therefore, it must be stressed that mystic discipline, if founded
on faith in the Unseen alone, and not on a mixture of revelation
and speculation, can pave the way to the awareness of the inner
reality of the myriad minor matters, in addition to the major
beliefs and practices, handed down in the Revelation.
Ibnul Arabi>s contention that Allahs Essence (Dha>t)
is identical with His Attributes (S{ifa>t) is not in harmony with
the Revelation. The Qura>n says: He has the most beautiful
Names.2 Indeed, they are Allahs Names; still, Allah and His
Names are not the same. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> has recommended
that man should ponder on His Names in order to be able to
appreciate His work. He did not say that about His Essence;
and that clearly indicates that Allahs Essence and His Names
are not the same. Moreover, for His Names to be known, He
does not depend on His work either, indeed, Allah is wholly
sufficient unto Himself; He needs none of the worlds.3
However, Ibnul Arabi> maintains that the worlds or the
creation are Allahs S{ifa>t in their actuality or realization.
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is perfect in Himself. The
Attributes, by which He turns to the world and creates it, are
other than His Self. Nor is the world the Tajalli> or emanation
of the Attributes, for, had it been so, the world would have been
identical with the Attributes. Need we say that the Attributes

I<ma>n bil-ghayb. Ghayb or Unseen, for example, Allah, Angels, Heaven,
Hell, and the like, is opposed to Shaha>dah (that which can be seen and
observed). In this study, Ghayb is used with particular reference to the
Being of Allah.

Qura>n 7:180, 17:110, 20:8 and 59:24.

Su>rah Ankabu>t, 29:6.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

are perfect while the world is full of imperfection! For example,

human knowledge has no resemblance with Allahs knowledge,
so that one may be called the Tajalli> of the other. This is bourne
out by Revelation as well, which says: Your Lord is holier than
the qualities which they ascribe to Him.1 It means, there is no
likeness whatsoever between the Divine and the human
Ibnul Arabi> denied existence to the world. He also
maintained that Aya>n-uth Tha>bitah, i.e. the existent essences
of the world, have not had the slightest touch of reality only
Allah alone exists. The Mujaddid points out that Ibnul Arabi>
said all that in a state of Fana> or annihilation.2 He was in such
a state of absorption in the being of Allah, that utter
forgetfulness of all else, took hold of him. When the sun shines,
the stars disappear in its light, although they are actually
present in the sky, and have not ceased to exist. So it was with
Ibnul Arabi>. He was so occupied with the being of Allah that
he was unable to apprehend and affirm other things, in spite of
the fact that other things were actually there. The truth of the
matter is, that Ibnul Arabi> did not realize Fana> adequately, for
he was still aware of the world. That is how he could identify it
with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Ibnul Arabi>s position does not satisfy the criterion of
Kashf as}-S{ah}ih> } or veridical (truthful) intuition, i.e. it is not in
accordance with the Revelation, which states clearly that Allah


Su>rah S{af> fa>t, 37:180.
Literally, self-annihilation. It is that stage in which the mystic turns away
from, and forgets, everything other than Allah. In certain cases, this
obliviousness leads to the denial of everything other than Allah Subh{an> ahu>
wa Taa>la>.

3.10 - Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation

is wholly other than the world, and that the

Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
world exists. For example, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> says: Not
without purpose did We CREATE heaven and earth and all
between! That were the thought of Unbelievers! But woe to the
Unbelievers because of the Fire (of Hell).1 Had the world not
been other than Allah, the commandments of dos and donts2
and the actions thereupon would be meaningless. They can have
meaning only if the world really exists. Otherwise, reward and
punishment and the Hereafter become meaningless. Indeed, the
aforesaid Revelation says the opposite.
Ibnul Arabi> thinks that the world is Mawhu>m
(illusion).3 Mawhu>m may mean that the world is an invention
of our own imagination. So, it would disappear if our
imagination were to disappear. However, to say that the world
is unreal and non-existent is scepticism. It is a denial of Allahs
attribute of Ibda> given in the Revelation, which means that
Allah as al-Badi> created the world from nothing. Mawhu>m
may also mean that the world does exist objectively, though its
existence as compared to Allahs existence is as insignificant as
that of an imaginary thing. In this sense it would be wrong to
hold that the world is identical with Allah; because the world is
temporal, but Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is eternal, the world is
subject to How and Why, but Allah is above it. Hence, from
both religious and rational point of view, it is impossible to


Su>rah S{ad> , 38:27. See also 3:191.
Awa>mir wa Nawa>hi>, i.e. Amr bil-Maru>f wa n-Nahi> an il-Munkar.
Commanding the good, and prohibiting the bad.
This idea is strikingly similar to the doctrine of Ma>ya>, as concluded in the
Hindu philosophy.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

hold that the world is Mawhu>m, in the sense that it does not
exist, or is identical with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
Ibnul Arabi> upheld the sole reality of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>. According to the Mujaddid, this happens when the mystic
feels that he is apprehending the Being of Allah (Tajalli>-i-Dha>t)
directly. He needs to outgrow this stage. Only then he can
realize that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is wholly other and beyond
this world; and that he, the mystic, cannot approach Him; and
that to identify Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> with the world is a
fabrication of the mystics mind. In other words, the mystic is
limited by the natural limits of speculative consciousness.
Moreover, if Ibnul Arabi> had fully realized Tajalli>-i-Dha>t, he
would have talked of Allah alone, and not at all of the world
and its identification with Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. As a matter of
fact, the conclusion of Ibnul Arabi>s mystic intuition is
absolutely opposed to Revelation. It must be added that
according to Revelation it is a heresy of the worst kind.
Ibnul Arabi> states that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> should be
understood both as transcendent and immanent. (See the sub-
section Allah and the World in Chapter 3.09 above).
Otherwise, he says, Allahs infinitude will be lost. It means,
Allahs infinitude is not complete until immanence is
complemented to His transcendence, i.e. He remains limited to
His transcendence. Now, the question is, if Aya>n-uth
Tha>bitah or the existent essences do not have the slightest
touch of existence about them, i.e. if the world is non-existent,
non-objective and imaginary, then how can it ever represent
Allahs immanence, and therefore, how can its negation from
the equation, reduce the infinitude of the existentially real, and
destroy the quality of His uniqueness? Equally, if Allahs

3.10 - Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation

immanence is affirmed, then Ibnul Arabi>s contention leads to

the conclusion that the Infinite became finite.
If immanence must be joined with transcendence, then
the Ma>-siwa>-Lla>h or things other than Allah cease to be. That
is why Ibnul Arabi> maintained that worship of any object
whatsoever is the worship of Allah. However, Revelation
stresses on an opposite view. It teaches: Say: O followers of
the Book! Come to an equitable proposition between us and
you that we shall not worship any but Allah and (that) we shall
not associate anything with Him, and (that) some of us shall
not take others for lords besides Allah; but if they turn back,
then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims. 1 It means,
firstly, that the Ahlal Kita>b or the People of the Book did
worship some things or someone other than Allah. Secondly, it
implies that there do exist things and beings other than Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. Thirdly, those who combine immanence with
transcendence, and as a result seek Allah as an immanent
Being, do not know that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is beyond the
reach of our reason and comprehension. Fourthly, whatever or
whoever they regard as God-immanent are mere fabrications of
their own imagination, for such are the ones whom they have
raised to the dignity of Godhead in defiance of Revelation.
Indeed, Revelation tells us that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is high
above our intuition and experience. Fifthly, at the stage of Farq
bad l-jam the mystic realizes that Allah and the world are
separate and distinct, and that is exactly what it means. Ibnul
Arabi> did not really reach that stage, because he continued to


Su>rah A<l-i-
Imra>n, 3:64.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

uphold that one may call the real Allah or the world, or may
express perplexity on account of their indistinguishability.
Ibnul Arabi> builds his doctrine of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d
on the identity of As}l and Z{ill, i.e. identity of the thing and its
adumberation. The Mujaddid points out that the Z{ill or
adumberation of a thing can never be identical with its As}l or
being. The Z{ill is only a copy or a likeness of the As}l. In the
case of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, the Z{ill is contingent, while the
As}l is necessary. The essence of the contingent is non-being,
whereas the essence of the necessary is being. Therefore, As}l
and Z{ill can never be identical. For example, if the shadow of a
person is prolonged, it can never be said that the person is
prolonged. The truth of the matter is, that the world is not the
Z{ill of Allah. Even if there is an insistence on that, the identity
of the two is not proved.
Ibnul Arabi> based his idea of mans identity with
Allah on the Revelation that says: We are nearer unto him than
his own life-artery.1 Certainly, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is nearer to
us than our life-artery, but the nature of His nearness is beyond
our comprehension. Moreover, that does not automatically
mean that man could be identified with Allah, or that man and
Allah belong to the same genre.
Similarly, the conception that Allah created Adam
(man) after His own image,2 is taken by Ibnul Arabi> to mean
that man is the embodiment of the attributes of Allah. It is
possible that he has taken the cue from the fact that both Allah
and human soul are non-spatial; therefore, it can be said that

Su>rah Qa>f, 50:16.


Khalaqa l-A<dama ala> S{ur> atihi>.

3.10 - Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation

they do resemble each other in this respect. However, their

resemblance to each other is limited to this extent. Hence, in
order to bring out the real difference between man, who is
mortal, and Allah, who is Ever-Living, the Qura>n has used the
parable of the spiders web for a comparison.1 The spider spins
its web warily, but cannot protect it from the elements for long.
But Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> can create by a mere command Be!,
and by a single breath can wipe out the entire structure of
heaven and earth. Thus, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and man cannot
be identical by any stretch of imagination.
The saying: one who comes to cognize his self comes to
cognize Allah,2 is taken by Ibnul Arabi> to mean that
knowledge of the self is the knowledge of Allah; therefore, the
self and Allah are identical. According to the Mujaddid, this
saying only means that one who has fully become conscious of
the defects and imperfections in his own nature has realized
that values and perfections are possible only through Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, and that Allah alone is the source and
embodiment of all values and perfections.
Ibnul Arabi>s position, that Allah descended, from His
state of Indeterminate Unity to the various stages of

The parable of those who take protectors other than

Allah is that of the Spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the
flimsiest of houses is the Spiders house, if they but knew. Su>rah
Ankabu>t, 29:41.
Man arafa nafsahu> faqad arafa Rabbahu>.
In this context, consider the implications of:


Whatever good (O man) happens to you, is from

Allah; and whatever evil happens to you, is from your (own) soul. Su>rah
Nisa>, 4:79.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

Determination (see Chapter 3.08 on the Six Descents),

highlights what he understands to be the Purpose of Creation.
His view implies that Allah was not perfect in Himself, and
that Allah had to depend on the world, both for His perfection,
and to become known. Firstly, Revelation does not support this
view. It says: Surely, Allah is sufficient unto Himself and needs
no worlds.1 Secondly, according to Revelation, the purpose of
creation is not knowledge at all, but service (iba>dah).2 Indeed,
one may say that iba>dah leads to marifah, i.e. knowledge of
Allah. All the same, in the knowledge of Allah consists the
perfection of man, and not the perfection of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la>, who is perfect in Himself. Allah is not affected by the
creation of the world. He is as He was before the creation. He is
now just as He (ever) was,3 i.e. Perfect.
The Mujaddid points out that the experience of Wah{dat
al-Wuju>d (which means: identity of being, Being is one,
unityism, etc.) is not objective. It is subjective; it is merely
Wah{dat ash-Shuhu>d, i.e. apparent identity, because the mystic
only feels or sees One. According to the Mujaddid, the source
of this subjective experience of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d is different
with different classes of men. With some mystics, it originates
in cognition. They begin with excessive meditation on the
Unity of Allah, and come to interpret la> ila>ha illa> Lla>h (there
is no object of worship but Allah) as equivalent to la> mawju>da
illa> Lla>h (nothing exists but Allah). Tawh}id> of this kind dawns
upon the consciousness of the mystic as the dominant cognitive

Su>rah Ankabu>t, 29:6.

I have only created Jinns and men, that they

may serve Me. Su>rah Dha>riya>t, 51:56.

Al-a>n kama> ka>n.

3.10 - Wah{dat al-Wuju>d in the Light of Revelation

aspect resulting from persistent thinking and meditation on the

Unity of Allah. By constant repetition, it becomes impressed on
his mind, and he begins to imagine that he has directly
perceived Wah{dat al-Wuju>d or unity and identity.
With other mystics, the subjective experience of
Wah{dat al-Wuju>d originates in feeling excessive love of the
Divine Being. The mystic is lost in the object of his love to
such an extent that he loses sight of everything else, and finds
nothing other than Him. So, he comes to believe that none but
the Divine Being exists. When he turns to the world, he
perceives the object of his love in every particle of it. He comes
to regard multiplicity only as a mirror or reflector of the beauty
of the Beloved. Some of these mystics who are perfectly lost in
the contemplation of the object of their love pray to remain
always absorbed in it, and yearn that their own existence may
never be brought to their consciousness. They regard any
reference to their own self as heresy. Their ideal is annihilation.
Fire of love is constantly consuming them. They give
expositions of their love-consciousness, namely, Wah{dat al-
Wuju>d in various ways that suit their capacities. Some take to
music, others to dancing, still others to writing books.
However, there are those who in course of time go
forward in their mystic experience and outgrow this stage. In
their case the experience of Wah{dat al-Wuju>d or unity and
identity disappears once for all, and they never get it again.
Then they repent of the pantheistic beliefs to which their
former experience had misled them.

3.11 Understanding Allah in the Lig
ight of

As mentioned in the preceding chapters, the most

notable personality who analyzed the essence of Wah{dat al-
Wuju>d, and laid bare the principal limitations of Perennial
Philosophy, was Mujaddid-i-Alf-i-Tha>ni>. For that reason, it will
be pertinent to see how, as a mystic, the Mujaddid explained
the position of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> in the light of Revelation.
A summarized version of his views are presented in this
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> cannot be known through kashf wa
shuhu>d, i.e. intuition and mystic experience. In this effort, the
only recourse is a return to Revelation, and to the Ulama>-i-
z}ah> ir or divines, because their conception is derived purely
from Revelation. Therefore, Dha>t and S{ifa>t, or the Being and
Attributes of Allah should be understood on the principle of
Muslim theologians. Mystic experience has no objective
validity in this regard. In relation to Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, the
mystic can and must attainUbudi>yah, i.e. servitude, and that is
the only valid stage. Allah is beyond all such Asma> wa S{ifa>t,
i.e. Names and Attributes as can be comprehended by man. By
extension, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is beyond all
z}uhu>r wa but}un> , i.e. externalization and internalization;
buru>z wa kuma>n, i.e. projection and introjection;
maws}ul> wa mafs}ul> , i.e. realizable and explicable;
kashf wa shuhu>d, i.e. mystic intuition and experience;
mah}su>s wa maqu>l, i.e. empirical and rational;

3.11 - Understanding Allah in the Light of Revelation

mawhu>m wa mutakhayyal, i.e. conceivable and

imaginable; and
shuyu>n 1 wa itiba>ra>t, i.e. modes and relations.
He, the Holy One, is beyond the Beyond, again beyond
the Beyond, again beyond the Beyond.2 Hence, I<ma>n bil-
Ghayb or faith in the Unseen is unavoidable. Such a faith is
possible only when thought and imagination get tired in their
futile efforts, and it becomes evident that Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
is unapproachable, inexperienceable, inexplicable and
unknowable. Such a faith alone is valid in Allahs case, because
such a faith is in keeping with mans limitations and Allahs
If it is possible to know anything other than this about
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>, then that is through Revelation; which
informs us that Allah is the Kha>liq or Creator of earths and
heavens, mountains and oceans, vegetations and minerals, the
world of animals, as well as human beings with all their
potentialities. Allah has created them out of adam-i-mah}d,} i.e.
pure nothing. Allah is the Bestower of all blessings, the Healer
of all ills, and the Provider of all needs. Allah is Satta>r or the
Concealer, who overlooks, covers, and graciously tolerates our

Shuyu>n, plural of Sha>n, literally means an exalted state or condition. In
the Revelation it occurs as: Everyday He is in a new
exalted Condition. Su>rah Rah}ma>n, 55:29. To Ibnul Arabi> and others,
it is S{ifa>t at their developing phase during the World-Process, i.e. the
Universe or Allah at a certain point of time. The Mujaddid puts Sha>n
between Dha>t and S{ifa>t. According to him Sha>n is an aspect of the Dha>t,
while S{ifa>t are something over and above Dha>t, and derivated from
Huwa Subh}an> ahu> wara> al-Wara> thumma wara> al-Wara> thumma
wara> al-Wara>.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

sins. Allah is H{ali>m or Forbearing, who does not hastily take us

to account for our wrongs. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> deserves all
praise and gratitude for His innumerable benefactions. Man
does not even know how to value Allahs goodness and
greatness. Allah is the Ha>di> or Guide, who through His
Messengers and Prophets enlightens the ignorant mankind,
according to their capacity, of His existence and Essence; and
who informs us of what He approves and what He disapproves,1
and of the useful and the injurious.2 Allah is Ah}ad or One, and
He is Wah}dahu> la> Shari>k or the One who has no equal, no co-
sharer. Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> alone is the Master of the universe,
the only Divine Being; and He alone is the object of worship.
No one shares these qualities or any other S{ifa>t with Him.
Revelation says: Allah comprehends (encompasses)
everything.3 So, Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is with us everywhere,
because nothing can go out of His ih}at> a} h or comprehension or
reach. Ibnul Arabi> conceives comprehension as inclusion, and
derives identity of Allah and man from it. Here, he ascribes to
Allah the concept of sirya>n or permeation with reference to the
world, which lends support to his idea of immanence. The
Mujaddid holds that the nature of Allahs ih}at> a} h or
comprehension is incomprehensible.
Revelation says: We are nearer to him than his life-
artery. The emphasis here is on qurb or togetherness. Ibnul
Arabi> holds that qurb or nearness of Allah is identity with

Moral good and evil.
Lawful and prohibited.
Su>rah Nisa>a, 4:126.
Su>rah Qa>f, 50:16.


3.11 - Understanding Allah in the Light of Revelation

Allah. The Mujaddid maintains that the nature of qurb is not

Revelation says: He is with you wherever you are.1 The
key word here is Mai>yat, which literally means togetherness.
From togetherness Ibnul Arabi> concludes identity of Allah
and man. The Mujaddid maintains that we do not know the
nature of Mai>yat.
Similarly, H{aya>t or Life, Ilm or Knowledge, Qudrat
or Power, Ira>dah or Will, Sam wa Bas}ar or Hearing and
Seeing, Kala>m or Speech, Takwi>n or Creation are Allahs
attributes, and, like His Being, these attributes are
incommensurable and incomprehensible to us.
The Mujaddid avoids the use of the terms Tanazzul
(Descent) and Taayyun (Determination) terms coined by
Ibnul Arabi> because they tend to signify identity. According
to the Mujaddid the s}ifa>t (Attributes) are the maz}ah> ir (effects)
of the Dha>t (Being); and the world is the maz}har (effect) of
the s}ifa>t (Attributes). It could be conceived that starting with
the Perfect Being as the Ultimate Cause, Cause these effects
(maz}ah> ir) were activated one by one in the following order:
s}ifat-i-wuju>d (the quality of existence); followed by
s}ifat-i-h}aya>t (the quality of life), as life is not
conceivable without existence; followed by
s}ifat-i-ilm (the quality of knowledge); followed by
s}ifat-i-qudrat (the quality of power); followed by
s}ifat-i-ira>dah (the quality of will); followed by
s}ifat-i-sam (the quality of hearing); followed by

Su>rah H{adi>d, 57:4.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

s}ifat-i-bas}ar (the quality of seeing); followed by

s}ifat-i-kala>m (the quality of speech); followed by
s}ifat-i-takwi>n (the quality of creation), which is the
cause of the creation of the world.
The world, therefore, is the maz}har or ultimate effect of
these s}ifa>t, and not emanation or tajalli> or mode or expansion
of the Dha>t (Being). These attributes of Allah are over and
above the being of Allah,1 the Perfect Being makes them
active one by one for the sake of creating the world. The
gradation is simply logical. It is by means of these attributes
which Allah adds to His being that the Perfect Being, who is
sufficient unto Himself and needs nothing, turns to the creation
of the world, and creates it.
Evidently, the Mujaddid holds that wuju>d or existence
is an attribute which is effected by Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> and
does not form part of His Essence. The Mujaddid thereby seems
to mean, firstly, that the being of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> is of
another kind, and we cannot call it wuju>d or existence of the
kind we know; and secondly, that wuju>d or existence of the
things is like a quality inasmuch as it has been given to them by
Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.

Za>id ala> adh-dha>t.

3.12 Understanding Man
Man in the Light
Light of

The previous chapters have emphasized ad nauseum that

Perennial Philosophy by its very nature cannot find a room for
the transcendence of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la> in the speculative
unity. Under its influence, most theologies and some mystics
have not been able to outgrow the idea of Allahs immanence in
the phenomenal world many in everything that is known, and
some at least in man. It has also been pointed out that
Revelation on the other hand, by its very nature, stays clear of
that mix-up, and as far as existence or being is concerned, it
informs us of the absolute separation of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
from His creation. Having said that, it must be accepted that
the source of all confusion lies in man himself, in that he finds
that he is endowed with qualities which are obviously lacking
in other beings around him. Most particularly, he enjoys the
faculty of imagination which allows him to traverse time and
space in all directions. Giving due regard to that, while
restoring the understanding of Allah to its true measure,
Revelation has not neglected the truth about the position of
man in the overall scheme of creation.
Revelation tells us that the essence of man is the soul,
and that the soul is the creation of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>.
However, the soul does not belong to the a>lam al-khalq or the
universe of process to which material things belong. It belongs
to a>lam al-amr or the universe of instantaneous creation. The
distinction between the two universes is based on Revelation,

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

which puts it as: Say, that the soul is my Lords command.1

The universe of matter is clearly the world of process things
in it take shape gradually, i.e. in course of time. They are
perceptual; hence, temporal. Soul is not such. Rationally, it is
conceptual; hence, non-temporal. It is incomparable and
inexplicable. It is something unique which cannot be explained
by something else.
The original inclination of the soul was to seek divine
approval. However, it has been intertwined with the a>lam al-
khalq. As such, it has been given a body. This has aroused in it
certain new tendencies, for example, to sin or to disobey Allah
Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. This state of things has given rise to the need of
purifying the soul, and encouraging and strengthening its
original inclination. The tendency to disobey Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa
Taa>la> is the fountain-head of all evils and vices. The soul begins
to hate virtue and indulge in vice. This state is called Nafs-i-
Amma>rah 2 or the Evil Self. However, in spite of sin and
disobedience the soul preserves the capacity of overcoming
vice. That it is a fact lends support to the reality of mans moral
freedom. Therefore, to believe that mans actions are
determined, i.e. they are the result of jabr or necessity, is
heresy, because, Revelation says: So let him who please
believe, and let him who please disbelieve;3 and it says: Allah
does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its
ability.4 That is why Islam and reason conceive actions as

Su>rah Bani> Isra>il, 17:85.

Su>rah Yu>suf, 12:53.
Su>rah Kahf, 18:29.
Su>rah Baqarah, 2:286.


3.12 - Understanding Man in the Light of Revelation

subject to approval and disapproval and to consequent reward

and punishment.
Through purification there begins gradually to arise in
the soul a state of repentance. This state is called Nafs-i-
Lawwa>mah 1 or the Reproaching Self. Then, progressing
further, the soul attains to another stage where it achieves
perfect harmony with the Divine Will, whereby, to act
according to any commandments of commission and omission
ceases to be unpleasant to it. This stage of spiritual
development is called Nafs-i-Mut}mainnah 2 or the Beatified
Self. This is the zenith of human perfection, and the highest end
for man. This is the very purpose of the creation of man. The
attainment of Nafs-i-Mut}mainnah or the Beatified Self is
called the stage of ubu>di>yah or servitude. This is when man
becomes absolutely free from bondage to everything other than
Allah. Here, it should be noted that love of Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>
is not the end in itself, it is a means to dissociate oneself from
ma> siwa> Llah or things other than Allah, and to get to
ubu>di>yah or servitude.
Hence, the relation between Allah and man is that of
abd and Mabu>d or the worshipper and the Worshipped.
Ubu>di>yah or servitude means that man should change his
whole life according to the divine will and should obey Allahs
commandments of commission and ommission, simply because
they are His commands. There is also another relation between
man and Allah, and that is of marifah or cognition. However,

And I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit.


Su>rah Qiya>mah, 75:2.

O (you) soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction.


Su>rah Fajr, 89:27.

The Misinterpretation of Tasawwuf

true marifah or cognition only means that man should realize

that he is incapable of knowing Allah Subh{an> ahu> wa Taa>la>. As
Syyeduna Abu> Bakr S{iddi>q (r) said: To realize ones inability to
comprehend Him is the true comprehension: Holy is He who
has not kept any road to Himself open to His creatures except
by way of realizing their incapacity to know Him.1

Al-ijzo an derk il-idra>ki idra>ko fa-Huwa subh{an> ahu>: man lam
yajal lil-khalqe ilayhe sabi>la>, illa> bil-ijze an marifatehi>.