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Suf tafsr as a Mirror: al-Qushayri the murshid in his Lat^ if al-ishrt

Annabel Keeler

Paul Nwyia once described the Sf exegesis of the Qur'an as 'a play of mirrors between the inward {btin) of the mystic and the inward {btin) of the scripture.' This evocative metaphor is apt in a number of ways. Firstly, it recalls the Sufis' own recommendation that the seeker should remove the rust of worldliness from the mirror of his soul or heart, polishing it so that it may reflect the truth. The idea of reflection in a mirror is further suggestive of an illuminative insight that is received, in contrast to the kind of knowledge that is mentally acquired; and the 'play of two mirrors' suggests a reflective infinity, a possibility of proceeding to ever-deeper levels as the one works upon the other. Some of the ideas evoked by Nwyia's metaphor are included in the Sufis' own discussions of the nature and conditions of the esoteric interpretation of the Qur'an. For example, the need for polishing the mirror of the soul as a prerequisite for Qur'an interpretation is indicated by a saying of Ibn "At' al-Adam (d. 309/922), cited in the early 5 ' / l l ' century commentary of Abu '^Abd al-Rahman al-Sulam (d. 412/1021), the Haq'iq al-tafsr} The [esoteric] meanings alluded to in the Qur'an {ishrt al-Qur'n) will only be understood by one who has purified his 'secret' {sirr) from all attachment to the world and everything it contains.^ and likewise, by a saying of al-Hallaj (d. 309/922):" Only to the extent of his outward and inward piety and his mystical knowledge {ma'^rifa) will the believer discover the inner meanings of the Qur'an. That the understanding of the inner meanings of the Qur'an is an illumination to be received, rather than knowledge to be acquired, is indicated by the Sufis' definition of it as '[divinely granted] unveilings' {mukshafat) and 'states' {munzalt) - the use of the third form verb in these terms indicates a kind of reciprocity, an 'interactive' receptivity and openness to the divine, again one thinks of the play of mirrors.* The numinous, arcane nature of Sufi exegesis is indicated by al-Sulam himself when, in the introduction to his Haq'iq al-tafsr, he states that the esoteric

Journal of Qur'anic Studies

knowledge of the Qur'an comprises '[its] exclusive secrets {ichawss al-asrr), subtleties {lat'if) and hidden wonders (maknnt badW^ihi).'^ Ab'l-Qsim alQushayr (d. 465/1072), in the introduction to his esoteric commentary on the Qur'an, the Lat^if al-ishrt, writes that it comprises 'subtleties of [its] mysteries and lights' (lat^if asrrihi wa-anwrihi), 'delicate allusions' {daqlq ishrtihi), 'concealed allegories' {ichafi rumUzihi) and 'hidden mysteries' (maicnnt). Again, al-QushayrI emphasises that these are a divine grace, by saying that God has 'illumined' {lawwalia) these hidden mysteries to (or for) the secrets (li-asrr) of the chosen (asy') among His servants. The idea of reflection evoked by Nwyia's mirror metaphor is also conveyed, albeit in a different way, in some of these SOfl definitions - or, more precisely, a different kind of reflection is indicated by them. For, while the same object will appear as an identical image in any true mirror, be it round or square, large or small, the truths reflected in Sf interpretations of the scripture, indeed on any one verse, show considerable diversity, and we may note the plural used in the titles of al-Sulaml's and al-Qushayr's commentaries: HaqHq al-tafslr, Lat'if al-ishrt. Explaining this diversity in the esoteric interpretation of the Qur'an, al-Qushayr states: 'SOfs articulate [the inner meanings] of the Qur'an according to the [various] levels (martib) of their [inner] lights and capacities (anwr wa-aqdrihim).'^ A similar statement is made by the earlier Sufi, Abu Nasr al-Sarrj (d. 378/998). Although, as far as we know, al-Sarrj did not compile any tafslr of his own, several pages of his treatise on Sufism, the Kitb al-uma\ are devoted to Sufs' elicitation of meanings {mustanbatt) from the Qur'an and Hadth. Al-Sarrj explains that each Sf exegete speaks 'according to their particular state {hl), and indicates meanings on the basis of their mystical experience (wajd)', and he observes that diversity in the field of esoteric knowledge is a mercy, just as it is (according to a saying attributed to the Prophet) a mercy in the realm of exoteric science, because mystics of every sort whether novices or adepts, whether engaged in works of devotion or in spiritual meditation - can derive profit from their words.' On the basis of these statements then, one would expect to find in Sif interpretations of the Qur'an a diversity that mirrors the degree and variety of mystical experience of each and every commentator, and can therefore benefit mystics at every stage of the way. However, a close study of Sf commentaries reveals that they reflect not only the states, stations and spiritual ranks of mystics, but also their doctrines, their approach to the spiritual path, and even, as we shall see, their persons. It is this mirroring that I want to explore here with reference to the Lat'if ai-ishrt of al-Qushayr, a Sf commentary that has received far less attention than it deserves; indeed it appears that the Lat^ifis not always considered to be altogether a mystical or esoteric commentary on the Qur'an.' This is surprising given that al-Qushayr's celebrated 'Epistle on Sfsm', the Rislafi "ihn

Suf tafsir as a Mirror

al-tasawwuf or Risla Qushayriyya, is said to have been one of the most widely read works in the field of Islamic mysticism, and indeed is so well known that it is often simply referred to as the Risla. It is true that al-QushayrI is also known as the author of several treatises on Ash'^ar theology,' and that he acquired a reputation for being a sober and cautious mystic.''' Nonetheless, after the Risla, the Lat'if al-ishrt is held to be the second most important major work among al-Qushayr's Suf writings.' Certainly, al-QushayrI intended his Lat'if to be an esoteric commentary, having already composed an exoteric commentary in his younger years.'^ Moreover, the Lat'if is said to have been used as a source by later Suf exegetes, such as Rzbihan Baql (d. 606/1209), '^Abd al-Razzq al-Kshn (d. 730/1329) and Ism'^l Haqq BurQsaw (d. 1137/1724),'*' while Rashd al-Dn Maybud was heavily dependent on it in the writing of his Persian commentary, the Kashf al-asrr. The examples I shall cite in this paper should adequately demonstrate the esoteric nature of the content of the Lat'if. However, in the course of this discussion I shall point out aspects of the work that might lead some to consider it as not truly belonging to the genre of mystical commentaries on the Qur'an. Before looking at the content of the Lat'if, a few remarks should be made about the style and method of al-Qushayrl's commentary. Firstly, it is worth noting that the Lat'if appears to have been composed, and does not, therefore, appear to fall into the category of the kind of exegesis described by Gerhard Bwering as 'mystically inspired utterances' in response to the Qur'anic recitation, that are (later) 'jotted down' next to the Qur'anic phrases.'^ Al-Qushayrl's work is consistently written in an eloquent literary style of Arabic, often in rhyming prose, with abundant, sometimes powerful use of imagery and metaphor, and the inclusion of numerous couplets of poetry (often love poetry) - far more than is to be found in al-Sulam's commentary, for example.'^ Among Suf commentators al-QushayrI is unusual in having attempted to comment in some way on all the verses of the Qur'an, though often this involves no more than a comment on one or two phrases in the verse. Inevitably, some verses of the Qur'an appeared to al-QushayrI to have less potential than others for esoteric interpretation, and therefore occasionally his commentary does not appear to go beyond an elaboration or explanation of a verse in its literal, exoteric sense.^" The inclusion of this kind of material may have helped to create the impression that the Lat'if is not a mystical commentary on the Qur'an. Further contributing to this perception may be the fact that al-QushayrI frequently presents a concise explanation of the exoteric meaning of the verse before expounding the esoteric allusion it contains.^' There appear to be two reasons for this: in some instances al-Qushayr clearly feels that the outward meaning of the verses requires some kind of explanation or emphasis; in others, he employs the exoteric interpretation as the basis or starting point for an esoteric analogy that he wishes to draw from the verse. Either way, he usually makes a clear distinction between the

Joumal of Qur'anic Studies

exoteric and esoteric exegetical approaches, referring to the former with expressions such as 'in the language of [conventional] exegesis' (bi-lisn al-tafsr), and to the latter as 'the allusion in it [is]' (wa'l-ishra fihi). Examples of this juxtaposition and/or linking of outer and inner meanings will be seen in due course. Turning now to the content of the Lat'if, and our theme of tafsir as a mirror, the first question that might be asked is whether or not we find in the commentary the sober, cautious al-Qushayr the Ash'ar theologian, known to us from al-Risla alQushayriyyal The answer to this question must be, to a certain extent, affirmative. Like most SQfs, al-Qushayr insists on the principle that inner realisation or truth (haqiqa) cannot be attained without observance of the religious law (Shar'^a). This may, in fact, be one of the reasons for his frequently preceding his esoteric interpretation of a verse with some reference to its exoteric meaning, as noted above. But we also find him expressing this principle in a manner that indicates some proclivity for the way of sobriety in mysticism, as when, for example, he interprets those upon whom is God's blessing (Q. 1:6) as 'those in whom the proprieties and precepts of the Sharfa are preserved when they are overwhelmed by the sudden descent of realities [to their hearts] {"inda ghalabt bawdih al-haq'iq), so that they do not leave the bounds of knowledge {hadd al-'^ilm) or in any way absent themselves from the rulings of the Sharl'a'.^^ Al-QushayrI actually precedes this interpretation with the words 'and it is said' (wa-qila), which, one might argue, does not preclude its being of his own hand. Yet, al-Qushayr's interpretation of another verse throws a different light on this principle. In his commentary on the words [those who] keep up the prayer... (Q. 2:3), he states:^"* The companions from among the generality [of believers] strive at the opening of their prayers to bring their hearts to the apprehension (ma"rifa) of the obligatory practice they are performing, but they do not withdraw from the valleys of heedlessness (ghafla). As for the companions from among the elite, they bring their hearts to apprehension of what they are performing, but they do not withdraw from the realities of union (wusla). There is a great difference between the one who is absent while carrying out the rites of the law, but in the realms of heedlessness, and the one who is absent, but returns to the rites of the law, with the realities of union. The above passage provides an explanation for a preceding statement in which al-Qushayr makes a subtle link between believing in the unseen, referred to in the first part of the verse, and the state of the elite in their performance of the ^^ One who believes in the unseen (ghayb) by witnessing the unseen (bi-shuhd al-ghayb) vanishes (ghba) in witnessing the unseen and becomes absent [from himself] for the sake of [what is] unseen (sra

Sf tafsr as a Mirror ghayban li-ghaybin). When it comes to making the prayer, [it involves his] establishing its pillars and traditions, then becoming absent from witnessing these by his 'vision' (rl^ya) of the One to whom the prayer is being made. So, the ordinances that are commanded are preserved for him through what is coming to him from God, he being effaced from consideration of them. The souls [of such servants] are facing the qibla while their hearts are immersed in the realities of union.

This interpretation is suggestive of a sobriety that is not merely a matter of caution, but is rather in conformity with the mystical doctrines of Ab'l-Qsim al-Junayd (d. 297/910), One is reminded, for example, of his doctrine of annihilation 'after' annihilation (fan' a ? ^ As far as al-QushayrI the Ash^ar theologian is concerned, points of dogma certainly occur here and there, though it should be pointed out that most Sufi commentaries include some elements of theology, especially conceming the doctrine of divine preordination, for example. But in the Lat'if al-ishrt al-Qushayr does not indulge in lengthy theological dispute or argumentation; points of dogma are rather included in passing, as when he comments at an exoteric level on those who believe in the unseen (Q, 2:3), and briefly explains that the 'unseen' is beyond the bounds of self-evident knowledge (idtirr), in contradistinction to other religious matters which may be known through deduction and analogy (istidll). This is before he passes on to a more mystical interpretation of 'those who believe in the unseen' as: 'those whom He frees from mental perception and searching, by the unveiling of lights ,., for once the suns of their secrets have risen, they have no need of the lamps of rational deduction (istidll).'^^ Another instance is when he comments on the words God does not shy from drawing comparisons even with something a small as a gnat or something larger (Q. 2:26), and explains that, since in relation to God existence is in reality smaller than a single atom of the dust of the air, there is no difference vis-vis His might between the Throne and a gnat - the creation of the Throne is not harder nor the creation of the gnat easier for Him, for He is exalted beyond being affected by easiness or difficulty.^^ We also find al-QushayrI as both Shfi'^/Ash'^ar and SOf reflected in his interpretation of Q, 1:5:^ Lead us on the straight path ... lest stopping in the lands of blind imitation (taqld) should hinder us from attainment [of the spiritual goal] (wusll), or that reliance on customary forms of instruction (mu'^td min al-talqn) should bar our way to spiritual insight (istibsr) .... Turning now to another kind of 'reflection', that which was specifically indicated by both al-Qushayrl's and al-Sarraj's definitions of esoteric interpretation, we fmd

Joumal of Qur'anic Studies

numerous comments in the Lat^'ifthat appear to be informed by states and stations experienced by its author. A few examples will suffice to illustrate this here. One instance is when al-Qushayr comments on Q. 2:25, Whenever they are given sustenance from the fruits of these gardens, they will say: We have been given this before, which describes the state of the believers in Paradise. As mentioned above, al-Qushayr frequently commences his interpretation by clarifying the outer meaning of the verse in some way. Thus he observes that, although when the believers in Paradise are given the fruit they suppose it to be as before, when they taste it they find it to be superior. Then follows his mystical interpretation, which takes the form of an analogy: It is the same way for the possessors of realities. Their inward states are constantly being elevated, so that when one is raised from his [previous] state, he supposes that what he will come to at that moment will be like that which preceded it, but when he experiences [lit. 'tastes'] it, he finds it to be superior by twice as much. Another example is al-Qushayr's commentary on Q. 2:106, Any revelation that We cause to be superseded or forgotten. We replace it with something better or similar. Here we find an allegorical interpretation which follows on directly from the verse as a gloss: 'that is. He moves you from one state {hl) to one above it, or higher than it, and the branch of your union is ever verdant and blooming and the star of your favour is ever rising.' As can be seen, al-Qushayr's allegorical interpretation of this verse has been embellished with metaphors. These metaphors are added to, as he goes on to explain, again in the form of a gloss:''^ We never take away any of the traces of worship (or 'service', 'ibda) without exchanging for them the lights of servanthood {'ubdyya), and We never take away any of the lights of servanthood without causing to rise in their place the moons of slavery Yet another example is his commentary on Q. 36:39, We have determined phases for the moon until finally it becomes like an old date-stalk. In this interpretation al-Qushayr explains the stage in which the seeker is gradually increasing in divinely-bestowed insight, while at the same time his self or nafs (symbolised by the moon) is waning so that eventually he attains the state of annihilation in God (fana"). But the person at this level is still at the stage of changeability or vacillation {talwn), and al-Qushayr then contrasts this stage with the more advanced station of stability {tamkn) which is symbolised by the sun. He ^^ The allusion in this verse is that the servant, at the time of seeking {talab), is in a fragile state {raqq al-hl), weak {in certainty {yaqn)} and limited in understanding. Then he reflects {yufakkir) until his

Suf tafslr as a Mirror insight {baslra) increases, and {his state is perfected) until he becomes complete, like the [full] moon [which] then gradually diminishes as it comes closer to the sun, little by little, and the closer it comes to the sun [lit. 'the more it increases in nearness to the sun'], the more it decreases in itself, until it is annihilated, hidden, no longer visible. Then it starts to become distant from the sun and it moves further and further away until it becomes [again] full - who could bring about this alteration in it? Only the decree of the One who is mighty and all-knowing. The one who resembles the sun is the mystic {"rif) who is constantly in the radiance of his gnosis {ma^rifatihi). He is the possessor of stability (tamJcln), not vascillating (mutalawwin). [His sun] rises permanently from the zodiac of his felicity; and is not darkened [lit. 'taken'] by any eclipse nor veiled by any clouds.

Al-Qushayr continues this interpretation by explaining how the servant who resembles the moon in his changeability, is taken from the state of expansion (bast) to the boundary of union (wisl) but is then brought back to lassitude (fatra) and falls into a state of contraction {qabd), until eventually God is generous with him and elevates him again to his state of proximity and perfection. In such examples it can be seen how fully al-Qushayr has allegorised the Qur'anic imagery. Moreover, he often provides a continuity in his application of these metaphors from one verse to another that is rare among earlier Sf commentators. In this way he seems to look forward to later commentators such as 'Abd al-Razzq al-Kshn. In some of his interpretations al-Qushayr shows an acute understanding of what we might call 'spiritual psychology' as he explains how a state may be experienced at different levels of human consciousness. So, in his commentary on Moses' coming to the waters of Midian, Q. 28:22, he writes: Outwardly he reached the springs of Midian, but in his heart he reached the springs of intimacy and ease (uns wa-rawh). There are different springs: the springs of the heart {qalb) are the gardens of expansion {riyd ai-bast) [where seekers experience] revelations of the [divine] presence (icushft al-muitdara) and delight in all kinds of [divine] graces (multafa); the springs of spirits {arwif) are the places of witnessing where they experience the revelation of the lights of contemplation and become absent from all perception of themselves; the springs of secrets (asrr) are the courts of divine unity (tawitld), and there the control is God's - for there is no self and no perception, no heart and no intimacy, it is annihilation in the

Joumal of Qur'anic Studies eternal (istihlk fi'l-samadiyya) and effacement in the all (fan' bi'lkulliyya).

In these interpretations, al-QushayrI is clearly alluding to states that are experienced by seekers who are advanced on the path. However, in many of his comments we also find him discussing pitfalls that face the wayfarer at more elementary stages of the spiritual way. The powerful language that he uses in these interpretations often conveys the sense of exasperation that he feels - here we are seeing another side of al-QushayrI, namely that of the spiritual master (tnurshid) in charge of numerous disciples, and responsible for their well-being and progress.^* The following are a few examples of this kind of interpretation. The frst such example is al-Qushayr's comment on the Qur'anic simile in Q. 2:17, They are like people who [labour to] kindle a fire, and when it lights up everything around them God takes away all their light, leaving them in utter darkness, unable to see. Al-Qushayr begins by explaining that outwardly this simile refers to the hypocrites, and then continues by showing that the mystical allusion in the verse refers to:'" The person who has a good beginning in travelling the path of spiritual aspiration (irda) and strives for a time, but then experiences one hardship after another, and turns back to the worldiiness of his state prior to his attainment of the truth, subsequently returning to the human darkness he was in before. Al-Qushayr's metaphorical language now comes into play: His branch put forth leaves but never bore fruit ... Lethargy quickly eclipsed the moons of his attentiveness. The hand of divine wrath (qahr) repels him, after [initially] the tongue of divine gentleness
(/M/) had summoned him.

Another example is al-Qushayr's commentary on Q. 2:14, which says of the hypocrites: When they meet those who believe they say, 'We believe', but when they go to their own satans, they say, 'We are with you, we were only mocking.' Al-Qushayr firstly comments at the literal level, explaining that the hypocrites want to combine two things, but they will be denied them both, and he then remarks:''^ Similarly, the one who tries to combine the way of spiritual aspiration (irada) with what the people of habit {'da) aie doing will not be able to bring these two things together, because two opposites cannot be united ... When night approaches from one side,^' day flees from the other. The person who has a companion in every district and an attachment in {every} corner of his heart, will be subject to vicissitudes, {divided between attachments}. His heart is ever in

Suf tafstr as a Mirror ruins, he has no enjoyment from life. In reality he gains no nourishment from his heart. And again commenting on the last part of the same verse he says: Those who cast the reins into the hands of their lusts will be lured by them into the vales of separateness (tafriqa), and they will not be able to gain a foothold in any station, because they will be swept away by those lusts into the wildernesses of alienation.

The analogical connection between the hypocrites who are being referred to in the verse, and those who are trying to combine spirituality with worldliness or their own pleasure and lust is, as far as al-Qushayr is concerned, a real one because he sees them both to be suffering from the same psychological flaw. Al-Qushayr draws on some evocative Qur'anic imagery when, commenting on Q. 2:9, he discusses the situation of the person who falls into the trap of confusing their own ego with the divine T , which deception leads to the hardest of punishments, al-Qushayr says, 'for they are seeing a mirage, supposing it to be something to drink, but when they come to it, they discover it to be nothing; instead, they find God, and He gives them their recompense'.'*' It will have been noted that many of these interpretations discussing the situation of those who are subject to hazards on the spiritual path take the form of an analogy drawn from verses which exoterically refer to hypocrites or unbelievers. However, sometimes these discussions occur in other contexts, as in the following, which appears to have been inspired by the Qur'anic imagery of the verse. Here al-Qushayr is commenting on Q. 36:41, Another sign for them is that We carried their seed in the laden Ark, and in his commentary he also introduces the imagery of aya 43, If We wished. We could drown them; they could not be saved. The passage is rich in rhyming prose: The allusion in this verse is to the carrying of [His] creatures in the ark of safety (salma) across the sea of destiny amid the clashing of its waves (taltum amwjih), through every kind of fluctuation and impact (taghyir wa-ta'thir). How many a servant is drowning in his busy-ness both day and night (fi-ishtighlihi fl-laylihi wa-nahrihi), not resting for one minute from the labour of his activities (min kadd aflihi), or from enduring the drudgery of his work (muqst ta^ab a^mlihi) and the accumulation of his wealth {jam" mlihi). This drives him to forgetfulness of his end and his final [abode] {"qibatihi wa-ma^lihi) and causes his preoccupation with his children and household {waladihi wa- "iylihi) to dominate his thought and concern


Journal of Qur'anic Studies (fikrihi wa-blihi) and so his effort does nothing but harm him (m sa^yuhu illfi-wablihi).

Sometimes, in addition to these insights into spiritual psychology, al-Qushayrl's interpretations even provide us with some glimpses into the social background of Sfsm. One example is when he interprets those who 'cause corruption on earth' (Q, 2:11 and 12) as being people who reject the divine proof that has come to them in the form of admonitory thoughts. The result of this rejection, al-Qushayr explains, is that 'God strips away the blessing in their states and in exchange gives them ears that are deaf to Him. Moreover He afflicts them with opposing the spiritual path (tarqa) and withholds from them any belief in it'."*^ And there follows this interesting observation: 'Just as the apostate is the most severe in enmity towards the Muslims, so the person who returns to worldliness and to the ways of habit from the way of spiritual aspiration (irda) is the most severe of people in rejecting this Sf way, and the most remote from Sufs.' In his commentary on the next verse. When it is said to them: Believe as the others believe, they say: Shall we believe as the foolish do? (Q. 2:13), al-Qushayr draws an analogy with wealthy people who, when they are commanded to give up their worldliness, describe the people of guidance (rushd) as 'lazy and incompetent, and say that the dervishes don't know anything, and have no property, status, comfort or livelihood!'. Qne can sense the exasperation of al-Qushayr, the spiritual master, in his comment on another part of the Qur'anic simile cited earlier (i.e. Q. 2:17): They move on when the light from the lightning comes, but when there is dark around them they stop (Q. 2:20). He writes:"*^ Similarly just when heedless people are becoming attentive to the truths that are being preached to them, so that their hearts are beginning to soften, or some fear enters them which draws them nearer to repentance, they go back and start to think it over. Then they consult those who are closest to them, and their families and children indicate that they should return to the world, and start giving them advice and browbeating them about being weak and incapable, so their spiritual resolve is weakened and their aspiration falls away. We also find interpretations in al-Qushayr's Lat'if which raise the subject of spiritual courtesy (adab) in Sfsm. One example is his comment on the words those who sever the bonds that God has commanded to be joined (bi-waslihi) and who spread corruption on the earth (Q. 2:27). Al-Qushayr states:'** Among those things which the servant has been commanded to maintain [lit. 'join'] is the protection of the rights (dhimm) of the

Sufi tafsr as a Mirror people of this spiritual path, and the outlay that is made to accomplish this is that of sincere aspirations not the expenditure of wealth.'*^ Their endeavours are entirely dedicated to the continuance of the means of this tarqa and the regulation of its affairs, while their hearts are turned towards the expectation of God's guardianship of its people. The 'corruption on earth' of this tarqa is their [the adepts'?] neglect of others who are peripheral to the states they are experiencing, so that they occupy each other {yatashghalna) with their talk and their [own] concerns at the expense of providing guidance to an aspirant {irshd murd) or sharpening the keenness of a seeker {ishhdh qsid), and this is one of the things that God, be He glorified, does not approve of from them.


Such interpretations are perhaps an indication of the structuring and formalisation of the Sufi way within the tarqa which was beginning to take place during this period. This involved not only the composition of Sun manuals but also the compilation of lists of rules of conduct for Sufis. Al-Sulam, who, after the death of Abu ''Al al-Daqqq, was al-Qushayr's spiritual master for a time, was the author of one such work on this subject.^" In the mirror of al-Qushayr's Lat^if we can also see reflected the sense of responsibility that is borne by the spiritual master. The context for this example is alQushayr's commentary on Q. 8:25, which reads Beware of discord (fitna) that harms not only the wrongdoers among you: know that God is severe in His punishment. Al-Qushayr begins his interpretation by explaining the implications of this verse in terms of the Shar^a, the gist of which is that a person may be taken as a criminal, even if he has not actually committed a crime, simply by aiding and abetting in the crime.'' Al-Qushayr then turns to the esoteric interpretation, starting from the point of view of spiritual psychology. He observes that when the servant 'commits a slip with his lower self {nafs), a tribulation {fitna) from it will be visited upon his heart, in the form of an immediate (hardening {al-qaswa al-mu'ajjala)], while his nafs will be afflicted by a punishment to come, and moreover, when the tribulation from that slip emanates from the heart {qalb) upon its desiring what is not right, a tribulation, in tum, will be visited upon his secret {sirr) in the form of a veiling'.'^ Al-Qushyar then applies this same principle to the spiritual community, and observes: When the senior person [on the path] {muqaddam) does what is not permissible for [one of] his rank, then the blessings that were being passed from him to his followers and disciples will be cut off, and


Joumal of Qur' anic Studies {their being cut off from these blessings} is their share from the fitna, even though they did not themselves commit any sin.

And he continues with another anonymous comment: ^^ " It is said that when great people [of the path] are silent instead of reprimanding their juniors,^^ then they will suffer tribulation {for having omitted to point out to them], with regard to the things that they [the juniors] did. As they say: 'If fools are not reprimanded they are as good as commanded.' Here the leaders are in effect being punished for neglecting to forbid wrong {nahl al-munkar) in the spiritual path. This principle is then applied more widely, as al-Qushayr continues:^^ Further it is said that when a renunciant (zhid) lowers himself by taking a dispensation in the law, allowing himself to take more from the world than suffices him for his needs, even though it be permissible (hall) according to the sacred law, the tribulation for that will be conveyed to the initiates he is training, and [the tribulation for] whatever worldly desire appears in him. [Moreover] abandoning that abstemiousness will result in his being lost in the vales of heedlessness and with worldly preoccupation. Likewise, when the worshipper {"bid) deviates from what is harder and leaves off what is nobler (awl),^^ this is conveyed to those who are keen in their spiritual striving. They get set in the way of laziness, then vacuity, and the abandoning of spiritual exertion leads them to following their passions ... ... [Similarly] when the mystic ("rifi tums back to something which holds some pleasure for him, the disciple looks at him, and lassitude interferes with the sincerity of the state (munzala) that he had, and that becomes [the disciple's] portion of the/ma of the mystic. We can see in these examples not only the spiritual psychology of the individual mystic, renunciant or worshipper, but also what might be called a 'social psychology' of the spiritual community. Again, there are principles in these interpretations that relate to the adab of aspirants towards their fellows on the path. Also worth noting is al-Qushayr's mention of different types of spiritual wayfarers such as the renunciant (zhid) and the worshipper (or devotee, 'bid) as well as the mystic ("rifi, each having their own disciples. This brings to mind the diversity of

spiritual movements that were coexisting in Khurasan during this period.

Suf tafsir as a Mirror


Many of the extracts so far examined may have given a somewhat austere impression of our commentator. However, the final example from the Lat'if al-ishrt that I shall discuss here is one that reflects a warmer, more spontaneous side of al-Qushayr, namely his interpretation of Moses and the theophany of Mount Sinai (Q. 7:143). This interpretation also exemplifies al-Qushayr's use ofthe theme of mystical love, which features more prominently in the Lat'if than it does in al-Sulam's Haq'iq al-tafslr - and, indeed, more than one might expect from al-Qushayr's Risla, where the subject of love is restricted to his chapters on mahabba and shawq.^^ In this case, the interpretation would seem to confirm Gerhard Bwering's observation that Suf exegesis often represents freer and more spontaneous expressions of Suf doctrine than are to be found in the more apologetic manuals of Sfsm. Before discussing al-Qushayr's commentary it is worth quoting Q. 7:143 in full: When Moses came at the time We appointed, and his Lord spoke to him, he said, 'My Lord, show Yourself to me! Let me see You! ' He said, 'You shall not see Me but look at that mountain; if it remains standing firm you will see Me. ' When his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain. He made it crumble. Moses fell down unconscious. When he recovered, he said, 'Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance! I am the first to believe!' Al-Qushayr begins his commentary on this verse in the form of an expanded gloss on the Qur'anic words. When Moses came at the time We appointed:^' Moses came the way of those who are full of desire, the way of those who are madly in love. Moses came, and there was nothing left to Moses of Moses. Thousands of men have travelled great distances and no one mentioned them, but here is Moses who took just a few steps and youths will be reciting When Moses came at the time We appointed till the Resurrection. To begin with, al-Qushayr explains Moses' request for vision as being the effect of the overwhelming of ecstasy upon him when he heard the divine speech, and then he explains it in another way:^^ When he heard God's speech, Moses became utterly intoxicated, so he uttered what he uttered. And the drunkard (sukrn) will not be brought to account for what he says. Don't you see that in the text of the Book Moses is not reprimanded for a single word? Here is probably an allusion to the phenomenon of the ecstatic utterance (shath, pi. shathiyyt), the most famous of which were attributed to al-Hallaj and Abu Yazd al-Bistam (Byazd). These were a subject of much controversy in Sfsm.^^ By


Journal of Qur'anic Studies

interpreting Moses' request as a shath al-Qushayr appears here to be condoning it, though he was careful to exclude the shathiyyt of both al-Hallaj and Byazd from hi his R i l ^ Al-Qushayr introduces an element of charm to his commentary by relating the tradition that Moses attempted to gather as many things as possible to say when He came to the meeting with God, and took it upon himself to speak for people,^^ asking them, 'Do you need anything from God? Is there something you want to say to Him? For I am going to commune with Him.' But, al-Qushayr relates, when he came and heard God's speech he could not remember anything, not one word; instead he spoke according to what overwhelmed his heart at that moment and said, 'My Lord, show Yourself to me! Let me see You!' More interpretations are added, each bringing another insight into the effect of mystical ecstasy:^* The person who desires the beloved most intensely is the one who is closest to the beloved. So it was that Moses was deep-rooted in union, in the place of intimate communing {munjt) with God, curtained all round with [divine] care, vanquished by the sudden onslaughts of ecstatic attainment. Then in the midst of all that he was saying 'My Lord, show Yourself to me! let me see You! ' - as if he was absent from the Truth! But then, the more people drink, the thirstier they become, the closer they become, the more their desire increases. Union inevitably goes on requiring perfection. Thus God protects the secrets of His chosen ones from lassitude {fatra). Or agam: Moses spoke with the tongue of utter neediness and said, 'Show Yourself to me - let me at least have one look! This affair is killing me!' Al-Qushayr also comments on God's denial of vision to Moses in a number of ways. In one of these, he explains that the affliction for Moses was much greater in God's saying 'Look at that mountain; if it remains standing firm you will see me', than if God had simply said, 'You shall not see me', because the latter was an unequivocal refusal, and at least there is a certain comfort in renouncing all hope. But instead, by saying 'fa-sawfa' (you will) He increased Moses' desire for what had been denied and, having increased his expectation. He then made the mountain crumble. But cruelty {qahr) is the way {sunna) of the beloved. Al-Qushayr adds that Moses was made to suffer even more by being commanded to look at other than the Beloved. But the greatest of all afflictions for him was to see God manifesting Himself to the mountain, so that the mountain was able to see God

Suf/a/ir as a Mirror


whereas he was not, and al-Qushayr adds 'that, by God, was hard indeed!' In spite of this, there was to be compensation for Moses, for al-Qushayr informs us that after Moses had fainted at the sight of God's manifestation upon the mountain, he was granted, in that state of annihilation from himself, the unveiling of the realities of Qneness (haq^iq al-ahadiyya), and, al-Qushayr adds, 'the Absolute Truth [i.e. God] after the annihilation of the traces of Moses, was better for Moses than Moses remaining to himself, just as witnessing of God through God is better than the creature subsisting in itself.*'' Here we have a clear reference to the mystical doctrine of annihilation from self (fan^) and subsisting in God (baq"). It is noteworthy that many of the themes that al-Qushayr has incorporated into his interpretation of Q. 7:143 are central to Islamic love mysticism: the sense of longing, which becomes more intense with proximity to the Beloved; the intoxication of the lover in communion with the Beloved; the cruelty of the Beloved; the desire on the part of the lover not to see anyone other than the Beloved; and, of course, the lover's jealousy. These elements do not feature in any of the comments on Q, 7:143 assembled in al-Sulam's Haq'iq al-tafsr.^' How do we therefore explain the unequivocal presence of love in al-Qushayr's interpretation here and elsewhere in his Lat'if al-ishrtl Certainly, al-Qushayr was not himself known to be a proponent of love mysticism. Yet I believe what we may be seeing in his somewhat discreet expression of these themes is, in fact, an indirect reflection of the spiritual climate in Nshpr at that time, a time when love mysticism was becoming increasingly prevalent among Sfs. Conclusion Sf Qur'an interpretation, as Sfs themselves have described it, reflects the spiritual capacity, the degree of illumination and the diversity of states and stations experienced by each and every commentator. From the examples drawn from alQushayr's Lat'if al-ishrt examined in this article, it can be said that Sf interpretation equally mirrors the particular doctrines, spiritual outlook and temperament (e.g. sober and cautious, or intoxicated), and personal preoccupations and responsibilities of the commentator. It can also inform us of codes of conduct among Sfs, and even provide us with glimpses into the interaction of Sfs with the non-Sf community. In this way we can more broadly see a reflection of the process of ordering and structuring of Sfsm within the tarqa, with a growing sense of its identity within society at large. I would suggest that one may also be seeing in al-Qushayr's Lat'if an indirect reflection of the wider cultural and spiritual ethos of Khurasan at a time when the doctrines of love mysticism were becoming a dynamic element in Sfsm.^'^ In the mirror of al-Qushayr's Lat'if al-ishrt, we see above all a Sf master, concerned and inspired to elicit from the Qur'anic verses spiritual guidance (irshd)


Joumal of Qur' anic Studies

that can be of benefit not only to adepts, but those at the more elementary stages of the Path; perhaps he even intended his comments to be of help to others who had vocations to be murshidn.

NOTES * In the preparation of this paper I have made use of both Ibrahim BasyOnl's edition of the Lat'if al-ishrt (Cairo: Dar al-Ktib al-'Arab, 1968-71), and the Kuprl 117 manuscript from Istanbul. Insertions made on the basis of the manuscript will be between the symbols { and 1, and corrections made will be indicated in the endnotes. 1 P. Nwyia, 'Un cas d'exgse soufie: l'histoire de Joseph' in S.H. Nasr, Mlanges Henri Corbin (Tehran: Kitbfursh!-yi Thri, 1977), pp. 407-23, p. 409. 2 Abu 'Abd al-Rahmn al-Sulam, Haq'iq al-tafsr, ed. S. ''Imrn, (2 vols. Beirut: Dar alKutub al-'^Ilmiyya, 2001), vol. 2, p. 302; P. Nwyia (ed.). Trois uvres indites de mystiques musulmans (Beirut: Dar El-Mashreq, 1986), p. 155. Editions of the Haq'iq al-tafsr used here are 'Imran's recent edition, the selections edited by Nwyia in his Trois uvres indites, and the British Library manuscript MS Or. 9433. 3 The word sirr, meaning literally 'secret', is a term used by Sfs to describe a subtle centre of perception or locus of mystical experience deep within the human being. It suggests both the mysterious, indefinable nature of this inner 'organ', and the ineffability of the higher realities that are experienced in or through it. There is no adequate translation of this word in English, though it is sometimes rendered by such expressions such as 'innermost consciousness', 'inmost being' or 'innermost mystery'. On this subject, see Shigeru Kamada, 'A Study of the Term Sirr (Secret) in Sufi at'i/Theories', Orient 19 (1983), pp. 7-28. 4 Al-Sulam, Haq'iq al-tafsr, vol. 1, p. 157; MS Or. 9433, f. 45a. See also Ab'1-Fadl Rashd al-Dn Maybud, Kashf al-asrr wa-'uddat al-abrr, ed. "A.A. Hikmat (10 vols. Tehran: Amr Kabr, 1952-60), vol. 2, pp. 612-13; vol. 1, pp. 229-30. 5 For example al-Sulam, HaqHq al-tafsr, vol. I, p. 19; MS Or. 9433, f. lb. See also Abu Hamid al-Ghazl, Ihy' 'ulim al-dn (6 vols. Damascus: Dr al-Khayr, 1417/1997), vol. 1, p. 30 (part 1.1, K. al-'Ilm, ch. 2, section 2 (on the knowledge of fard kiya), question 3); Maybud, Kashf al-asrr, vol. 2, pp. 612-13. 6 See W. Wright, A Grammar of The Arabie Language: Translated from the German of Caspari and Edited with Numerous Additions by W. Wright, 3rd edn, revised by W. Robertson Smith and M.J. de Goeje (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), pp. 33-4. 7 Al-Sulam, HaqHq al-tafsr; MS Or. 9433 f. lb. The word makninat is absent from 'Imrn's edition, p. 19. 8 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. l,p. 41. Likewise in MS Kuprl 117, f. lb. 9 Al-Sarrj, Kitb al-luma" 'l-tasawwuf, ed. R.A. Nicholson, Gibb Memorial Series, (London: Luzac, and Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914), p. 107; the translation is adapted from Nicholson's summary, p. 31. 10 Alan Godlas, although he alludes to its esoteric content, lists the Lat'if al-ishrt along with al-Tha'lab's al-Kashf wa'1-bayn 'an tafsr al-Qur'n, as being in the category of 'moderate' commentaries as distinct from the category of 'esoteric' commentaries. See his comprehensive overview of Sf tafsr, in his article on the internet 'Sufi Koran Commentary: A Survey of the Genre', http://www.uga.edu/islam/sufismtafsir.html. 11 A.J. Arberry described al-Qushayr's Risla as 'the most esteemed and popular book on the subject [i.e. Sfism] in Arabic' and 'the principal study of all later scholars', for which see A. J. Arberry, Sufism: An Account of the Mystics of Islam (London: Allen and Unwin, 1950), p. 7. Numerous editions of the Risla are available, one of the best known being that published in

Sun tafsr as a Mirror


Cairo by Dar al-Kutub al-Hadtha in 1966. It has been part-translated by Barbara von Schlegel as The Principles of Sufism (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1992). 12 For a list of some of these works see Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (5 vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937^2), Supplementband 1, pp. 770-2; I. BasyOn, al-Imam al-Qushayrl slratuhu thruhu madhhabuhu 'l-tasawwuf (Cairo: Majma' al-Buhth al-Islmiyya, 1972), pp. 44-6. Some of these treatises have been published by R.M. Frank in MIDEO 15 (1982), pp. 53-8, and MIDEO 16 (1983), pp. 59-94. 13 This reputation may have accrued to him in part because of anecdotes related in the biography of Abu Sa^Id ibn Ab'1-Khayr. See, for example, Muhammad ibn Munawwar, Asrar al-tawhldfl maqmt Shaykh Abl Sa'd, ed. Muhammad Rida Shafi' Kadkan (2 vols. Tehran: Intishrt-i gh, 1987), vol. 1, pp. 74-6 (an English translation of which can be found in John O'Kane, The Secrets of God's Mystical Oneness (California: Mazda and Bibliotheca Prsica, 1992), pp. 156-7) and Kadkanl's introduction, pp. 41-2. However, alQushrayr's sober, cautious image is probably mainly due to the apologetic character of the Risla itself, which Arberry describes as having been 'carefully designed' (Arberry, Sufism, p. 71, emphasis mine), while Knysh, drawing on another quote from Arberry, states that throughout the Risla al-Qushayrl 'portrays Sufism as "a fairly rigid and clearly definable way of life and system of thought'". See A. Knysh, Islamic Mysticism: A Short History (Leiden, Boston and Kln: E.J. Brill, 2000), p. 132. See also J. Mojaddedi, 'Legitimizing Sufism in alQushayr's Risala', Studia Islmica 90 (2000), pp. 37-50; J. Mojaddedi, The Biographical Tradition in Sufism (London: Curzon, 2001), ch. 4, for al-Qushayrl's exclusion of al-Hallaj from the biographical section of his Risala. Qasim al-Samarrai writes that al-Qushayr was 'primarily a theologian and then a Sf'(Q. al-Samarrai, The Theme of Ascension in Mystical Writings (Baghdad: National Print and Publishing Company, 1968), p. 46). 14 Qther mystical works by al-Qushayr available in recent printed editions include: the Tartlb al-suluk, a short treatise on dhikr (remembrance of God), edited and translated into English in F. Meier, Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism, tr. John Q'Kane (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1999), pp. 93-133; the Tahblrfl 'ilm al-tadhklr, ed. L Basyn (Cairo: Dar al-Ktib al-'Arab, 1968); the Arba'a rasa'il 'l-tasawwuf ed. Q. al-Samarrai (Baghdad: al-MaJma" al-'Ilm al-'^Irq, 1969); the Kitb al-mi'rj, ed. A.H. Abdel Kader (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Hadtha, 1964); the Nahw al-qulb al-kablr, ed. I. Basyn and A."A. al-Jind (Cairo: "^lam al-Fikr, 1994); the Nahw al-qulb al-saghlr, ed. A.'A. al-Jind (Tarbulus: al-Dr al-'Arabiyya li'1-Kitb, 1977). Titles of further Sf treatises by al-Qushayr may be found in al-Samarrai, Theme of Ascension, p. 279; Rashid Ahmad (Jullandri), 'Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayr as a Theologian and Commentator', Islamic Quarterly 13 (1969), p. 35; Basyn, al-Imm al-Qushayr, pp. 44-6. 15 Halm's article on al-Qushayr in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (art. 'Kushayr' in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2"'' edn, vol. 5, p. 526), states that al-Qushayr composed his Lat'if al-ishrt before the year 410/1019. However, it is more likely that he composed his mystical commentary later in his life, at the time he was composing his other Sf works, such as the Risla, which was completed in the year 438/1046. According to al-Fris (Kitb al-siyq h'lta'rlkh Nlsbr, ed. in facsimile by R.N. Frye in The Histories of Nshapr, Harvard Orientai Series, 35 (London: Mouton, 1965), f. 97a) and Subk (Tabaqt at-Sh'iyya al-kubr (6 vols. Cairo: al-Matba'a al-Husayniyya, 1324/1906), vol. 3, p. 245), the title of al-Qushayr's earlier commentary was al-Tafslr al-kabr, and Fris informs us that al-Qushayr composed this work before 410 AH. A fragment of Qur'anic commentary entitled Tafslr Qushayr has been preserved in MS Leiden 811, and Rashid Ahmad has edited a portion of this manuscript, assuming it to be part of al-Qushayr's al-Tafsr al-kablr (see his unpublished PhD thesis, 'Tafsr in Sf Literature with Particular Reference to AbQ'1-Qsim al-Qushayr' (University of Cambridge, 1967)). The part of this thesis relating to al-Qushayr has been published as Rashid Ahmad (Jullandri), 'Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayr as a Theologian and Commentator', Islamic Quarterly 13 (1969), pp. 6-69. The MS Leiden 811 consists of fifteen sessions of a


Journal of Qur' anic Studies

traditional (exoteric) Qur'anic commentary which were delivered between the years 413 and 414 AH, covering Q. 57:21 to Q. 66:12. If this commentary were to be a genuine composition of al-Qushayr, then it would indicate, surprisingly, that he had Mu^tazil leanings in his youth, since the work includes numerous citations of well-known Mu'^tazills, such as Qd '^Abd al-Jabbar, Abu Muslim al-lsfahn, Abu ""All al-Jubb' and Abu ""All al-Fris. Although their names are not given in full, Rashid Ahmad has identified them through a comparison with identical or similar comments cited in the commentary of Fakhr al-DTn alRz (see his 'Abu al-Qsim al-Qushayr', pp. 41-6). In the fragment attributed to al-QushayrI these names are followed by honorifics such as 'may God have mercy upon him', and furthermore, their comments are not contested, as is the case in al-Rz's tafsr. Also present in this fragment are comments by earlier mystics such as Yahy ibn Mu'adh and Fudayl ibn 'Iyad. Another exoteric commentary often attributed to al-Qushayr is entitled al-TaysJrfl 'ilm al-tafslr or al-Tayslr fCl-tafslr al-Qur'n, though this is more likely an abridgement by alQushayrl's son, Abu Nasr "^Abd al-Rahm al-Qushayr, either of his father's al-Tafslr al-kablr, or of another commentary of his own. On this subject, see also Fritz Meier, 'Philologika XIII', Oriens 3 (1950), pp. 31-107, pp. 46-7, and Gerhard Bwering's review of Richard Grmlich, Das Sendschreiben Al-Qusayrls ber das Sufitum, Freiburger Islamstudien Band, XII (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1989), in Orientalia 58 (1989), pp. 569-72. 16 See Ahmad (Jullandri), 'Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayr', pp. 67-8. 17 It is also evident from examples cited by Bwering in his discussion of al-Qushayr's commentary on Q. 24:35, in his 'The Light Verse: Qur'anic Text and Sufi Interpretation', Oriens 36 (2001) pp. 113-44; from numerous examples translated by Kristin Z. Sands in her Sf Commentaries on the Qur'an in Classical Islam (London and New York: Routledge, 2006); and from some of the examples cited in A. Knysh, art. 'Sufism and the Qur^an' in Jane Dmmen McAuliffe (ed.). Encyclopaedia ofthe Qur'an (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2006), vol. 5, pp. 137-59. 18 G. Bwering, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sf Sahl al-Tustarl (d. 283/896) (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 1980), p. 135. 19 Ibn Khallikn notes al-Qushayr's particular predilection for poetry, especially that which discusses the union and separation of lover and beloved. See M.G. de Slane's translation of Ibn Khallikn's Wafayt al-a'yn as lbn Khallikn's Biographical Dictionary, Oriental Translation Fund (4 vols. Paris: Benjamin Duprat, 1842-71), vol. 2, p. 154. 20 For example, see his comments on Q. 2:250, 251 and 258, and Q. 4:150. 21 Although no Sufi commentary is entirely devoid of exoteric comments. Moreover, it is not always possible to draw a sharp line between what constitutes an exoteric and an esoteric meaning, as in the case of comments of an ethical or theological nature, for example. However, al-Qushayr's manner of alluding to the exoteric meaning before moving on to the esoteric meaning follows a fairly consistent pattern in the Lat'if. One Sf commentator who took this principle further is Maybud, who structured his entire commentary, the Kashf al-asrr, so as to juxtapose sections of exoteric and esoteric interpretation on each session (majlis) of the Qur'an. 22 This principle may also have been a motive behind Maybud's juxtaposition of exoteric and esoteric interpretation in the Kashf al-asrr. See Chapter Two of my Sf Hermeneutics: The Qur'an Commentary of Rashid al-Dln Maybud (Oxford: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, forthcoming late 2006). 23 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, p. 51. Basyn's interpolation ofthe word bawdih is confirmed by MS Kuprl, f. 6a.

Suf tafsir as a Mirror


24 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, p. 57. The translation of the Qur'an cited here, and the majority of following citations from the Qur'an, are taken from M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an: A New Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 25 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, pp. 56-7. 26 That is to say, he becomes absent from this world to the extent that he is present in God. See the definitions of ghayba and hudUr in Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, Kitb al-luma'\ p. 340; Abu Bakr al-Kalbdh, Kitb al-ta^arruf li-madhhab ahl al-ta.sawwuf, ed. A.J. Arberry (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khnj, 1933), p. 87, tr. A.J. Arberry as Doctrine of the Sufis, reprint (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 112; Ab'1-Qsim al-Qushayr, al-Risla alQushayriyya 'Um al-tasawwuf, ed. 'Abd al-Halm Mahmud and Mahmud ibn al-Sharf (Cairo: Dr al-Kutub al-Hadtha, 1966), pp. 214ff. On the basis of the Kuprl MS I have substituted 'li-ghayibin' for 'yughibu'. 27 See A.H. Abdel Kader's translation of Junayd's epistle no. 15, on tawhld in A.H. Abdel Kader, The Life, Personality and Works of al-Junayd, Gibb Memorial Series, 22 (London: Luzac, 1976), pp. 5 3 ^ (Arabic) and p. 174 (English). 28 AI-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 56. 29 Al-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 70. See also al-Qushayr's succinct but adamant refutation of the ascription of place {makn) in relation to God, in his commentary on Q. 2:29 (p. 74). 30 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 50. On the views of al-Shfi' and al-Shrz (d. 476/1083) concerning taqlld see N. Calder, art. 'Takid' in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2'"' edn, vol. 10, p. 137. 31 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 70. 32 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, pp. 111-12. BasyQn's correction (al-'ubda in place of al-^ubudiyya) is confirmed by MS Kuprl, f. 20a. 33 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 3, p. 218. 34 On the hermeneutics of al-Kshn, see Pierre Lory, Les Commentaires soteriques du Coran d'aprs "Abd al-Razzq al-Qshn {Vms: Les Deuz Ocans, 1980). 35 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 3, p. 62. 36 Al-Qushayr was the foremost disciple of Abu "Al al-Daqqq, as well as his son-in-law, and it is known that at some point after the death of his master, al-Qushayr took charge of Abu '^Al's madrasa, which eventually came to be known as al-Qushayr's madrasa. According to Richard Bulliet, on the basis of al-Fris's history, this madrasa was really a Sf institution and a place where Sf activities took place rather than classes in law or legal debates. See R. Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1973), appendix 1, p. 250. 37 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, pp. 67-8. 38 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 64. 39 This is according to the Kuprl MS, which has 'idh aqbala al-layl', instead of 'idh adalla al-layl' in the Basyn edition. 40 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 64. 41 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, p. 61. The allusion is to Q. 24:39, But the deeds of those who disbelieve are like a mirage in a desert: the thirsty person thinks there will be water but, when he gets there, he finds only God, who pays him his account in full - God is .swift in reckoning. It is interesting to note that al-Qushayr is alluding to this verse in an esoteric manner, since in its outer meaning the verse is referring to the disbelievers. Thus he is providing an esoteric interpretation for two verses at the same time.


Joumal of Qur'anic Studies

42 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 3, p. 218. 43 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if ai-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 63. 44 Al-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 63. 45 Al-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 67. 46 Al-QushayrI, La'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 72. 47 The word dhimm can also mean security of life and property. 48 Ihmluhum hawsht ahwlihim wa-atrf umrihim. Alternatively, this could mean 'their being undisciplined about the peripheral aspects or outer effects of their states', tn any case, I have corrected '/mo man iahum' in the Basynl edition to 'ihmlihim', and 'itrq umrihim' to 'atrf umrihim' as per MS Kuprl, f. 12b, both of which seem to make more sense in the context. 49 On aspects of this development in Sfism see Margaret Malamud, 'Sufi Organisations and Structures of Authority in Medieval Nishapur', International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 26 (1994), pp. 427^2; Fritz Meier, 'Khurasan and the End of Classical Sufism' in Fritz Meier, Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism, tr. John Q' Kane (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1999), pp. 189-219. 50 First published in Abu "^Abd al-Rahman al-SulamI, Jawmi'^ db al-Sfiyya and "Uyb alnafs wa-mudwatuh, ed. and intr. Etan Kohlberg, Schloessinger Memorial Series, 1 (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Academic Press, 1976), republished in N. Pourjavady (ed.), Majm'a-yi thr-i Abu ""Aba al-Rahmn al-Sulam (Tehran: Iran University Press, 1369/1980-1). Abu Sa'Id ibn Abi'l-Khayr is reported to have drawn up a list of rules for conduct in the S lodge or khnaqh, for which see Frye, Histories of Nishapur, vol. 2, p. 74. This list of rules may be found translated in R.A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 46, and in A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Isiam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), p. 243. Later works on SOfl adab include the Adb al-murdn of Ab'l-Najib al-Suhraward (d. 563/1168), the Adb al-murdln of Najm al-Dn al-Kubr (618/1221), and the Fusus al-db of Yahy Bkharzi (d. 736/1335-6). On the latter, see M.I. Waley, 'A Kubrawl Manual of Sufism: The Fusus al-db of Yahy Bkharzf in L. Lewisohn (ed.). The Legacy of Persian Sufism (London: Khanaqah-i Ni'matullahi, 1992), pp. 289-310. A good introduction to the subject of Sufi adab works is Fritz Meier's 'A Book of Etiquette for Sufis' in Meier, Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism, pp. 49-92, which includes a paraphrase in English of Najm al-DIn alKubr's Adb al-murdn. On the concept of adab among early mystics see also N. Pourjavady, 'M bi-majlis-i mihtarn sukhan nagu'tm: frsl g'-yi 'Abd Allah Mubarak va adab-i Irani', Nashr-i Danish, 16:4 (2000), pp. 21-5. 51 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 616. 52 Al-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 616. BasyOnl's edition has immediate punishment (al-'^aqba al-mu'ajjala) for the heart and 'delayed punishment' (al-^aqba al-mu'ajjala) for the nafs, which is stylistically more pleasing. However, there would also be a logic in al-Qushayr's describing the nature of the tribulation from the heart (i.e. the 'immediate hardening' (al-qaswa al-mu"ajjala), mentioned in MS Kuprl, f. 99a) as well as the nature of the tribulation for the secret (i.e. 'veiling' or hujba) in both the MS and BasyOnl's edition. 53 AI-QushayrI, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 616. 54 Also al-QushayrI, Lat' if ai-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 616. 55 I have omitted '"inda tarkihim adhkrihim' which is absent from MS Kuprl, f. 99a. 56 Al-Qushayr, Lat' if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 617.

Suf tafsr as a Mirror


57 This is according to Basyn's correction. The MS Kuprl, f. 99b seems to be defective here. 58 See J. Chabbi, 'Remarques sur le dveloppement historique des mouvements asctiques et mystiques au Khurasan', Studia Islmica 46 (1977), pp. 6-72, and the statistical tables showing the occurrence of the terms 'bid, zhid, "an/and sf in the histories of NshpQr in Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur, pp. 41-2. 59 Mention has already been made of al-Qushayr's fondness for love poetry, but we also often find that his interpretations allude to the theme of love, as for example in his interpretation of Q. 2:1. His commentary on Sura 12 will be discussed below. 60 G. Bowering, 'The Qur'an Commentary of al-Sulam' in W.B. Hallaq and D. Little (eds), Islamic Studies Presented to Charles J. Adams (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990), p. 55. 61 Al-Qushayr, Lata'if al-ishrt, vol. I, p. 564. 62 Al-Qushayr, Lata'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 565. 63 On the phenomenon of shathiyyt see Carl W. Ernst, Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985). 64 See J. Mojaddedi, The Biographical Tradition, pp. 116-17. 65 That is, reading khalq according to the MS Kuprl, f. 88a, as opposed to haqq in the Basyn edition. 66 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 565. 67 Al-QushayrT, La'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, pp. 565-6. 68 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. I, p. 567. 69 Al-Qushayr, Lat'if al-ishrt, vol. 1, p. 566. On the basis of MS Kuprl, f. 88a, I have corrected 'shuhd al-haq'iq bi'l-haqq', to 'shuhud al-haqq bi'l-haqq', which seems more likely in the context of the words that follow: 'atammu min baq' al-khalq bi'l-khalq.' 70 All these elements are to be found in the writings of proponents of Khursn love mysticism such as Ahmad Ghazl, Rashd al-Dn Maybud, 'Ayn al-Qudt Hamadn and Shihb al-Dn Ahmad Sam'n. 71 I have found this equally to be the case in the comparative study of SDf commentaries on Srat Yisuf that 1 am at present completing. This is particularly evident in relation to the fgure of Jacob, who begins to be associated with theme of love in al-Qushayr's Lai'if alishrt, while there is virtually no mention of love in relation to him in the commentary of alSulam. 72 An ethos which is much more directly reflected in Maybud's Kashf al-asrr, for which see Chapters Three and Eour of my forthcoming Sufi Hermeneutics.