orthodoxy of Sufism is not only shown in its maintaining of Islamic
foms; it is equally expressed in its organic development from the
teaching of the Prophet and in particular by its ability to assimilate
all forms of spiritual expression which are not in their essence
foreign to Islam. This applies, not only to doctrinal forms, but
also to ancillary matters connected with art.
there were contacts between early Sufis and Christian contemplatives,
as is proved by the case of the Sufi Ibrahim ibn Adham, but the
most immediate explanation of the kinship between Sufism and Christian
monasticism does not lie in historical events. As 'Abd al'Karim
al'Jili explains in his book al-Inan al Kamil ('Universal
Man") the message of Christunveils
certain inner--and therefore esoteric--aspects
fo the monotheism of
Read Part One
a certain sense Christian dogmas, which can be all reduced to the
dogma of thte two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, sum
up in a 'historical' form all that Sufism teaches on union with
God. Moreover, Sufis hold that the Lord Jesus (Sayyidna 'Isa)
is of all the Divine Envoys (rusul) the most perfect type
of the contemplative saint. To offer the left cheek to him who smites
one on the right is true spiritual detachment; it is a voluntary
withdrawal from the interplay of cosmic actions and reactions.
is nonetheless true that for Sufis the person of Christ does not
stand in the same perspective as it does for Christians. Despite
many likenesses the Sufi way differs greatly from the way of Christian
contemplatives. We may here refer to the picture in which the different
traditional ways are depicted as the radii of a circle which are
united only at one single point. The nearer the radii are to the
centre, the nearer they are to one another; nontheless they coincide
only at the centre where they cease to be radii. It is clear that
this distinction of one way from another does not prevent the intellect
from placing itself by an intuitive anticipation at the centre where
all ways converge.
make the inner constitution of Sufism quite clear it should be added
that it always includes as indispensable elements, first, a doctrine,
secondly, an initiation, and thirdly, a spiritual method. The doctrine
is, as it were, a symbolical prefiguring of the knowledge to be
attained; it is also in its manifestation, a fruit of that knowledge
quintessence of Sufi doctrine comes from the Prohpet, but, as there
is no esotericism without a certain inspiration, the doctrine is
continually manifested afresh by the mouth of masters. Oral teachings
is moreover superior, sincie it is directed and 'personal,' to what
can be gleaned from writings. Writings play only a secondary part
as a preparation, a complement or an aid to memory and for this
reason the historical continuity of Sufi teaching sometimes eludes
the researches of scholars.
for initiation in Sufism, this consists in the transmission of a
spiritual influence (barakah) and must be conferred by a
rrepresentative of the 'chain' reaching back to the Prophet. In
most cases it is transmitted by the master who also communicates
the method and confers the means of spiritual concentration that
are appropriate to the aptitutedes of the disciple . . .
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Sufism gratefully acknowledges permission from Thorsons, part of
HarperCollins Publishers to reprint At-Tasawwuf which
comprises Chapter One from Titus Burckhardt: An Introduction to
Sufism (trans. D. M. Matheson), Aquarian/Thorsons (1990). This chapter
is printed in two parts due to space limitations.
Certian Sufis deliberately manifested forms which, though not contrary
to the spirit of the Tradition, shocked the commonality of exotericists.
This was a way of making themselves free from the psychic elements
and mental habits of the collectivity surrounding them.
In some turuq, such as the Qadiriyah, the Derqawiyah, and
the Naqshbendiyah, the presence of 'outer circles' of initiates
in addition to the inner circle of the elite results in a certain
popular expansion. But this is not to be confounded with the expansion
of sectarian movements, since the outer circles do not stand in
oppostion to exotericism of which they are very often in fact an
What is in these days usually called the 'intellect' is rreally
only the discursive faculty, the very dynamism and agitation of
which distinguishes it from the intellect proper which is in itself
motionless being always direct and serene in operation.