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'This science is one of the lawful sciences that carne into being in the
(Moslem) religion. lts root is that the way of these people never ceased-
among the ancient members of the Community, and its great ones among
the Companions, the Followers and those after them - to be the way of
truth and guidance. The root-principle of that way is assiduity in the
service of God and complete devotion to Him, turning away from the
tinsel ornaments of worldly possessions and abstaining from those things
- pleasure, wealth, rank - after which the multitude seek.'
Such is the definition of Sufism that is given in lbn Khaldn's famous
catalogue of the Islamic sciences. 1 By his time its battle for recognition
as an orthodox movement had long since been won, and the legend that
the Sufi discipline was the life of simple faith and austerity practised by
the earliest Moslems had gained genera! credence. Yet the term Sufi ap-
pears not to have passed into currency much before the year A.D. 800,
and was 'originally applied to those Moslem acsetics who, in imitation of
Christian hermits, clad themselves in coarse woollen garb as a sign of
penitence and renunciation of worldly vanities 2 .' For all that, most
modern researchers now agree that the origins of Sufism are indeed to
be sought far back in the first days of Islam, and that Ibn Khaldn was
therefore following a sound instinct in recognizing the ascetic habits of
Mohammed's immediate disciples as the authentic prelude to that elabo-
rate system of self-discipline and ecstatic experience which afterwards
passed by the name of Sufism. 3 It is to be noted that nowadays the
term ta~awwuf (a verba! noun derived from ~f = wool) has come to be
regarded as equivalent to 'mysticism', so that a contemporary Moslem
writer entitled his book on the history of Sufism al-Ta~awwuf al-Islm 4
This seems to be a legitimate development, for there can be no doubt that
Sufism means toa Moslem what mysticism means toa Christian.
1 lBN KHALDN,al-Muqaddima (Cairo, n.d.) 467.
2 R. A. N1cHOLSON,The Mystics of Islam 3-4.
3 I. GoLDZIHER,Vorlesungen ber den Islam 133-187; D. B. MAcDONALD,Religious Attitude

and Life in Islam 159; R. A. N1cHOLSONin Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1906) 304-306;
L. MASSlGNON, Essai sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane, passim.
4 ZAKi MuBRAK,al-Ta~awwuf al-lslam (Caro, 1938).

'The phase of thought or feeling which we call Mysticism has its origin
in that which is the raw material of all religion, and perhaps of all philo-
sophy and art as well, namely that dim consciousness of the beyond,
which is part of our nature as human beings.' So wrote the late Dr W.
R. Inge, the leading British authority on Christian mysticism of his
generation. He added, more precisely, that 'religious Mysticism may be
defined as an attempt to realise the presence of the living God in the soul
and in nature, or, more generally, as the attempt to realise, in thought and
feeling, the immanence of the tempora! in the eternal, and of the eternal in the
tempora! 1 '. If this definition is accepted - and it offers as good a point
of departure as any- then we are justified in agreeing with the Sufis that
the Koran itself provided the foundation upon which they built their
system. The 'attempt to realise the presence of the living God in the soul
and in nature' is constantly recommended in the sacred text, as at Sura
LI 21:
In the earth are signs for those having sure faith,
and in your selves; what, do you not see?
Prolonged meditation upon this and many similar passages confirmed
for the Sufis the authenticity of that personal awareness of God which
they were experiencing. The stories describing Mohammed's com-
munions with God, both in his solitary vigils on Mount Hira 2 and especial-
ly during his miraculous nightjoumey 'from the Holy Mosque to the
Further Mosque' 3 , constituted for them apostolic authority for the
attempts they were making to enter into direct relations with the Creator.
This is however to anticipate a later phase of development. We have no
sure evidence covering the first two centuries of Islam that deeply religi-
ous men and women were seeking more than to live their lives in the
true fear of God, or that they looktd for an earlier encounter with the
Almighty than the Day of Jugdment. The sayings recorded of al-I:Jasan
aJ-Ba~ri (d. no/728) 4 , whom the Sufis reckoned among the most eminent
of their early saints, scarcely transcend the expression of a profound reli-
giosity, and a scrupulous n,gard for the devotional requirements of
IsJam. 'Beware of this world with all wariness; for it is like to a snake,

1 W. R. INGE, Christian Mysticism 4-5; for ther definitions see ibid. 335-348.
2 The place outside Mecca where Mohammed received his first revelation, see AL-BUKHRi,
al-'Jmi' al-$a/i/i (Cairo, 1296/1879) i. 3.
3 Koran xvii 1.
4 As in lBN AL-JAUZ, al-]fasan al-Ba$r; Aa Nu'AIM AL-l~BAHN, ]filyat al-auliy' ii. 131-
161; other references in C. BROCKELMANN, Geschichte der arabischen Litteralur, Suppl. i. ro3.

smooth to the touch, but its venom is deadly 1 '. So al-1:fasan wrote to the
godly caliph Omar II. 'For the world das neither worth nor weight with
God; so slight it is, it weighs not with God so much as a pebble or a single
clod of earth; as I am told, God has created nothing more hateful to
Him than this world, and from the day He createq it He has not looked
upon it, so much He hates it. It was offered to our Prophet with all its
keys and treasures, and that would not have lessened him in God's sight
by so much as the wing of a gnat; but he refused to accept it; and nothing
prevented him from accepting it - for there is nothing that can lessen
him in God's sight - but that he knew that God hated a thing, and
therefore he hated it, and God despised a thing, and he despised it, and
God abased a thing, and he abased it Had he accepted it, his acceptance
would have been a proof that he loved it; but he disdained to love what
his Creator hated, and to exalt what his Sovereign had debased.'
The same ascetic outlook, which must have charasterised many of the
early Moslems and received new impetus as old-fashioned piety reacted
against the luxury and dissoluteness that accompanied the rapidly
increasing wealth of the Moslem empire, stimulated godly-minded schol-
ars to collect Traditions testifying to the Prophet's own abstemious habits
and otherworldliness. lbn al-Mubrak of Merv (d. 181/797), considered
by the Sufis as one of them, compiled out of such materials a Kitb al-
Zuhd which has survived 2 ; books with the same title were written by al-
Umawi (d. 212/827) 3 , the celebrated AJ:i.madibn l:fanbal (d. 241/855) 4,
Ibn al-Sari (d. 243/857) 5 , and lbn al-A'rbi (d. 341/952 6 ). Meanwhile
the self-denying life was impelling men and women to practis! austerities
that provided later hagiographers with their favourite material. When
Qushairi (d. 465/1072) carne to compose his famous treatise on Sufism,
he headed his list of Sufis with the name of Ibrhim ibn Adham, Prince of
Balkh (d. 160/777), the story of whose 'conversion' has been recounted
many times, and compared with the legend of Gautama Buddha 7 Like
many other early Sufis he is represented as having had contact with
Christian anchorites in the desert; 'I learned gnosis,' he is reported to
have told a dis'iple, 'form a monk called Father Simeon 8 .' He was the

1 ABU Nu'AIM, op. cit. ii. 134.

2 See C. BROCKELMANN, op.cit., Suppl. i. 256.
3 Ibid. i. 351.
4 Ibid. i. 310.
6 Ibid. i. 258.
6 Ibid. i. 358. For other titles see 1:IAJJI KHALFA, Kashf al-?unn (Istanbul, 1943) 1, 422-23.
7 R. A. N1cHOLSON, The Mystics of Islam 16-17; L. MASSIGNON, op.cit. 63.
8 ABU Nu'AIM, op. cit. viii. 29.

first of a long line of important mystics hailing from north-eastern Persia;

indeed the Sufi 'school' of Khorasan was recognised as second to none,
not even that of lraq 1 . Among the members of the Khorasanian group
were Shaqiq of Balkh (d. 194/8ro), a pupil of lbrhim ibn Adham who is
said to have been the first to define trust-in-God as a distinct mystica!
state 2 ; al-Fulail ibn 'lyl (d. 187/803), who smiled only once in his
life and that on the day his son <lied3 ; Bishr ibn al-I:Irith of Merv
(d. 227/841), whose indifference to other men's opinion foreshadowed
the notorious antinomian heresy of later times 4 ; and I:Itim al-A~amm
(d. 237/852), Shaqiq's disciple, who also discoursed on gnosis 6
Some relief from the austere outlook of the foregoing men is provided by
the recorded utterances of Rbi'a of Basra (d. 185/801), the most famous
woman saint in Islam 6 , of whom her English biographer remarks that 'her
teaching is that of a real mystic 7 '. She appears to have been the first Sufi
to use the term 'love' to express her feelings towards God, in verses that
have often been cited 8
'I love Thee with two loves - the love of desire, and a love because
Thou art worthy of that.
As for that which is the love of desire, it is my preoccupation with the
remembrance of Thee to the exclusion of all other.
As for that of which Thou art worthy, it is Thy raising the veils so
that I see Thee.
Not mine is the praise in the one or the other; rather Thine is the
praise in this and that.'
In her prayers Rbi'a cried, ' God! if I worship Thee in fear of Heil, burn
me in Hell; and if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from
Paradise; but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine
everlasting beauty 9 .'
We are still somewhat in the realm of legend rather than sober fact
when considering the career of Dhu >1-Nnal-Mi~ri (d. 246/861), buried
1 L. MASSIGNON, op. cit. 225-242.
2 A. J. ARBERl.tY, Sufism 38.

3 Ibid. 42.

'Ibid. 40; cf. AL-SULAM, Rislat al-Malmatya, edited by A.E. AFFIFI (Alexandria, 1944).
6 A. J. ARBERRY, op. cit. 39.
6 See especially M. SMITH, Rbi'a the Mystic; 'ABD AL-RAI;IMN BADAw, Shahdat al-'ishq
7 M. SMITH, Readings /rom the Mystics of Islam ro.
8 See AL-KALBDH, Kitb al-Ta'arruf 80; Aa LIB AL-MAKK, Qt al-qulb ii. 57; AL-
GHAZL, IIJ,y' (Cairo, 1289/1872) iv. 298; R. A. NICHOLSON, Literary History of the Arabs 234;
L. MASSIGNON, op. cit. 194.
9 R. A. N1cHOLSON, The Mystics of Islam u5; M. SMITH, Readings /rom the Mystics of Islam ro.

within sight of the Pyramids of Giza; for though a long poem and cer-
tain minor tracts attributed to him have survived, their authenticity is
extremely doubtful 1 . It is typical of the esteem in which his supernatural
knowledge was held that he was credited with being able to deciper
Egyptian hieroglyphs; he is also portrayed as a powerful alchemist 2
It would be attractive to speculate that he may have been in contact
with remnants of Hermetic tradition, but of this there is no proof. He
is supposed to have been 'the first to isolate distinctly the notion of
gnosis 3'; however, we have seen that Ibrhim ibn Adham is also said to
have already received instruction from a Christian source on this Gnostic
topic. Dhu '1-Nn is further alleged to have been 'the first to define and
teach the classification of the mystical states ( afiwal) and stations
( maqamt) 4 '; one could wish to have better evidence of the truth of this
assertion. What is reasonably certain is that he visited Baghdad - an
account is given of an interview between him and the caliph al-Muta-
wakkil 6 - and was in touch other leading Sufis of his time; we have a
report that he met Ab Yazd al-Bistmi 6 and sent him a prayer rug 7
Dhu '1-Nn's sayings and prayers are tinged with a certain pantheistic
tendency, which however springs naturally from a medita tion of the Koran.
Thus, Sura XXIV 41 asks:
Rast thou not seen how that whatsoever is in the heavens
and the earth extols God,
and the birds spreading their wings?
Dhu '1-Nn's response is very close in spirit: 'O God, I never hearken to
the voices of the beasts or the rustle of the trees, the splashing of waters
or the song of birds, the whistling of the wind or the rumble of thunder,
but I sense in thema testimony to Thy Oneness' 8
The first Sufi whose writings have been preserved in any considerable
bulk is al-J:Irith ibn Asad al-Mul).sibi of Basra and Baghdad (165-243/
781-837); and of him we have somc twenty works, ranging in length
from tracts of a few pages to the substantial and famous treatise al-

1 See G. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. i. 199, Suppl. i. 353.

2 L. MASSIGNON, op. cit. 185.
3 Ibid. 186.

4 Ibid. 189.
5 See AL-KHATB AL-BAGHDDi, Ta'rikh Baghdd viii. 394-395.
6 See AL-SAHLAJ, al-Nr min kalimt Abi Taifr (in 'Aan AL-RAl;IMN BAnAw, Sha!alit
al-$/ya) 73.
7 Ibid. 111, 125.
8 Aa Nu'A1M, op. cit. ix. 342.
Handbuch der Oricntalistik, Abt I, Bd VIII, 2

Ri<ya li-'!t,uqqAllh 1 . He has been described as 'the first Sunni mystic

whose works reveal a complete theological education 2 '; he is included by
al-Subki in his list of eminent Shfi<i jurisprudents 3 , and he quotes an
earlier scholar as calling al-Mu):isibi 'the Imam of the Moslems in law,
Sufism, Traditions and scholastic theology'; lbn I:Jajar also admits
him to his dictionary of reliable traditionists 4 He may well be regarded
as having made the first attempt to accommodate Sufi experience to
orthodox doctrine, and thus to be a forerunner of al-Ghazli 5 His
polemica! writings attacking the Mu<tazila and the Shi'a have not
survived 6 ; despite his zeal for the 'ancient faith' he did not measure up
to the strict standards of A):imad ibn I:Janbal who turned his powerful
influence against him and forced him into retirement 7 Abu '1-Qsim
al-Junaid, who was al-Mu]:isibi's most famous disciple, recounts how
he would go for long walks with his master during which al-Mu):isibi
would urge him to propose problems; 'I would question him, and he
would answer accordingly forthwith; then he would return to his dwelling-
place and make them into hooks 8 .' The structure of many of al-Mu]:isibi's
writings, especially al-Ri<ya, fully bears out this report. In addition to
al-Ri<ya, which discusses in a long series of chapters a variety of questions
relating to the ascetic and mystica! life - such as self-examination
(mu'!t,saba) 9 , conversion, hypocrisy, sincerty, conceit, pride, the fear of
God - his best known works are the Kitb al-W a~y and the Kitb al-
Tawahhum. The farmer of these, as yet unpublished, begins with a sec-
tion in which the author tells in genera! terms of his dissatisfaction with
the schools of theology, and how he carne to take up Sufism; this 'con-
fession' provided al-Ghazli with the model for his own more famous
spiritual autobiography 10 In the Kitb al-Tawahhum al-Mu]:isibi gives
a graphic and very materialistic account of the events consequent upon

1 Edited by M. SMITH (London, 1940). For al-Mu~sibi's life and writings, see M. SMITH,
An Early Mystic of Baghdad.
2 L. MASSIGNON in Encyclopaedia of Islam iii. 699.
3 See ALSUBKi, Tabaqt al-Sh fi'ya ii. 37-42.
4 See lBN l:IAJAR, Tahdhb al-Tahdhb ii. 134-136.
6 See M. SMITH, 'The Forerunner of al-Ghazali' in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1936)
6 Titles are given in al-Subki, op. cit. ii. 37.

7 See ALKHATiB, op. cit. viii. 214-216.

8 Aau Nu'AIM, op. cit. x. 74.
9 lt was to his preoccupation with mu/lsaba that ALMu1;1Xsrnowed his name, see L. MAs
SIGNON,op. cit. 21 I.

1 For the text see L. MASSIGNON,op. cit. 216-218; A. J. ARBERRY, op. cit. 47-50.

death, leading up to the Last Judgment and the vision of God accorded to
the saints in Paradise. 1 .
Ab Yazid al-Bistmi (d. 261/875 or 264/878) provides an effective
contrast to his Iraqi contemporary; for whereas al-Mul;isibi makes the
impression of being a theologian first and a mystic afterwards, al-Bistmi
was obviously an ecstatic who found the greatest difficulty in expressing
himself in language acceptable to the orthodox. When the theorists
carne to classify the Sufis as 'drunk 'or 'sober', he always figured as an
outstanding example of the former category 2 His grandfather had been
infl.uential in pre-Islamic times. In his mystica! raptures al-Bistmi
was overpowered by the sense of merging his identity into the all-em-
bracing personality of God; it was in such a mood of 'unification' that he
uttered the famous words Sub!in! m a<;ama sha'n! ('Glory be to me!
How great is my majesty!') 3 Uncontrolled exclamations of this kind, in
which the mystic appeared to be claiming absorption into the Godhead,
afterwards gave rise to much discussion; while the Sufis and their sym-
pathisers displayed great ingenuity in arguing that the words were inno-
cent of blasphemous intention, to the narrower theologians such as lbn
al-Jauzi 4 and Ibn Taimiya 5 they afforded proof of the heretical nature of
much of the Sufi movement. Ab Yazid moreover was the first, as it
seems, to claim a mystica! 'ascension' in imitation of the Prophet's
night-journey. Several accounts of his miraculous adventures into the
ineffable are extant 6 ; a typical narrative runs as follows: 'I vanished into
almightiness, and forded the seas of dominion and the veils of godhead,
until I carne to the Throne; and behold, it was empty. So I cast myself
into it, saying, ,,Master, where shall I seek Thee?" Then He unveiled,
and I saw that I was I, and I was I, turning back into what I sought, and
I myself, not other than I, was where I was going 7'.
The mystery of the Divine Unity (tau!id) had long been exercising the
minds of Moslem theologians; this was indeed the chief topic of discussion
between the Mu<tazila and their opponents, the former going so far
along the via negativa as to deny separate attributes to God 8 For the
1 Edited by A. J. ARBERRY(Caro, 1937).
2 See AL-HuJWR, Kashf al-ma/ijb (translated by R. A. N1cHOLS0N) 185.
3 See H. R1TTERin Encyclopaedia of Islam (new edition) 162-163, where references are given .

IBN ALJAUZi, Talbs lbls 341-350.

6 IBN TA1MiYA,Majm'at al-ras'il (Caro, 1341/1923) i. 61-120.
6 See especially R. A. N1cHOLSON,'An early Arabic version of the Mi'rj of Abii Yazd al-

Bistm' in lslamica ii. 402-415.

7 See AL-SAHLAJi,op. cit. 128.
8 See for instance H.S. NYBERGin Encyclopaedia of Islam iii. 791; J. W. SWEETMAN,Islam and

Christian Theology ii. 21-25.


Sufis the absolute uniqueness of God appeared to be proved by their

experiences of self-naughting in the moment of supreme mystical en-
counter; it was in this sense that al-Bistmi prayed, 'Adorn me in Thy
Unity, and clothe me in Thy Selfhood, and raise me up to Thy Oneness,
so that when Thy creation see me they will say, ,,We have seen Thee";
and Thou wilt be that, and I shall not be there at all" 1 It was the primary
concern of al-Junaid of Bagdad (d. 298/9ro) to formulata a theosophical
theory which would assimilate the mystical to the orthodox doctrine of
taub,id. He defined the term as meaning 'the separation of the Eternal
from that which was originated in time' 2 and held that the worshipper
reaches this goal when he 'returns to his first state, that he is as he was
before he existed 3 ' In his Ras'il, which have survived in a unique
maniscript 4, he elaborates this laconic statement by commenting upon
Koran VII 171:
And when thy Lord took from the Children of Adam,
from their loins, their seed, and made them testify
touching themselves, 'Am I not your Lord?'
They said, 'Yes, we testify.'
The drama of this primeval covenant between mankind and their Creator
was enacted before creation; God then 'spoke to them at a time when
they did not exist, except so far as they existed in Him.' It was the mystic's
aim, in al-Junaid's view, to honour the compact into which he had then
entered with God, and to 'return to his first state' by passing away from
the attributes of self. The last phase of unification is reached in 'the obli-
teration of the consciousness of having attained the vision of God at the
final stage of ecstasy when God's victory over you is complete. At this
stage you are obliterated and have eternal life with God, and you exist
only in the existence of God because you have been obliterated. Your
physical being continues but your individuality has departed.' Such is
al-Junaid's description of fana', the passing-away of the mystic's human
characteristics, and baqa', his personal, albeit transformed, survival in
union with God. 5
Credit for having been the first to propound the doctrine of fan' and
1 See AL-SARRJ,Kitab al-Luma' 382.
2 See AL-QusHAIR, Risala (Caro, 1330/1912) 3, 136.
3 See A. ABDUL KADER, 'The Doctrine of Al-Junayd' in Islamic Quarterly i. 174. DRA. ABDUL
KADER has prepared an edition and English translation of the Rasa'il of al-Junaid.
4 Described by L. MASSIGNON, op.cit. 273-274; see further A. J. ARBERRY,'Junayd' in Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society (1935) 499.
6 See A. ABDUL KADER, 'AI-Junayd's Theory of Fana' in Islamic Quarterly i. 218-219.

baq>has sometimes been assigned to Ab Sa'd al-Kharrz (d. 279/892 or

286/899), who was a senior contemporary of al-Junaid 1 . The Kitb al-
$idq, his only work so far published 2 , does not reach so sublime a theo-
sophical level as the letters of his younger colleague; neverthelless there
are passages which testify to genuine mystical experience. He writes of a
state of singleminded concentration in which 'his heart gains a quick
understanding, and his thoughts become clear, and light lodges in his
heart; he draws near to God, and God overwhelms his heart and purpose.
Then he speaks, and his heart surges with the recollection of God; the
love of God lurks deeply hidden in his inmost heart, cleaving to his mind,
and never leaving it. Then his soul is joyfully busied with secret converse
with God, and passionate study, and ardent talk' 3
From lraq we return again to Persia with the next great Sufi of this
fecund century, Ab 'Abd Allah al-Tirmidh (fl. 285/898). Like al-Mu}:i-
sib he was a general theologian turned mystic, and like al-Mu}:isib
he wrote many books; not all of them treat of mystica} topics, and indeed
some, in particular the Nawdir al-usl, are collections of Traditions. In
certain of his writings, such as the Riyijat al-nafs 4 and the Adab al-
nafs 5 , he develops a psychological theory, base on the Koran, which was
afterwards further elaborated by al-Ghazl. His most notorious work
has not survived; this was the Khatm al-wilya in which he advanced the
unorthodox view that the rank of sainthood was higher than that of
prophecy, which led to his expulsion from Tirmidh 6 When al-Tirmidh's
voluminous writings come to be thorougly examined, it will surely be
seen that his share in the development of lslamic mysticism was very
considerable. 7
The oldest surviving Sufi commentary on the Koran was compiled
after the teaching of Sahl ibn 'Abd Allh al-Tustar (d. 273/886 or 283/
896) 8 ; in it he distinguishes an esoterie from an exoteric interpretation.
Thus, in his elucidation of Sura LIi 4 he quotes the Prophet as explaining
that 'the House inhabited' was located in the fourth (or the seventh)
heaven and was visited every day by 70,000 angels; the 'inward' meaning

1 L. MASSIGNON,op. cit. 271-272.

2 Edited and translated by A. J. ARBERRY(Oxford, 1937).
3 Kitb al-$idq (translation) 66.
4 Also entitled }faqiqat al-damya; edited by 'ABD AL-Mu1;1srnAL-l;IUSAINi(Alexandria, 1946),
and by A. J. Arberry and A. Abdul Kader (Caro, 1949).
Edited by A. J. ARBERRYand A. ABDUL KADER (Caro, 1949).
8 L. MASSIGNON, op. cit. 259-262.
7 A monograph on al-Tirmidhi is being prepared by MR N. HEER of Princeton.
8 Printed at Caro in 1326/1908.

of the phrase was the hearts of the gnostics, which are 'inhabited by the
gnosis and the love of God' - this was the house visited by the angels,
because it is 'the house of the Divine Unity 1 .' This commentary, which is
of very modest size and treats only a selection of verses, was the forerun-
ner of an extensive and important literature; among those who followed
al-Tustari's example in making scriptural exegesis a vehicle for theosophi-
cal teaching were al-Sulam 2, al-Qushairi 3 , al-Baql 4 and al-Qonaw 5
The last of the great figures of this formative period of Sufism was
al-I:Iusain ibn Man~iir al-I:Iallj, executed for blasphemy in 309/922.
His career and doctrines have been the subject of a most carefnl and
well-documented series of studies by Professor L. Massignon which
excel in range and method anything that has been attempted as yet in the
exposition of other Moslem mystics 6 As it was over al-I:Iallj's head that
the gathering storm of orthodox reaction against the Sufi movement
broke, it will be useful to summarise very briefly here the chief features
of his system. One of the four heads under which he was arraigned was
'the fact that he declared himself to be essentially united with God'; 7
the three other counts were of less doctrinal importance. This accusation
fastened upon his utterance Ana 'l-lf aqq ('I am the Truth') 8 which,
taken in conjunction with other statements, appeared to mean that he
attained to apotheosis. In an oft-quoted set of verses he further declared 9 :
'I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I; we are two spirits
dwelling in one body.
lf thou seest me, thou seest Him, and if thou seest Him, thou seest
US both,'

The word here translated indwelling' is derived from the Arabic root
I:ILL; al-I:Iallj was therefore charged with teaching the heresy of f,,ull,
'incarnationism 10 ' or, more properly, 'indwelling 11 '. This was the term
used by Arab Christians to denote the doctrine of the Incarnation, and

1 Tafsr 94-95.
2 [faq'iq al-tafsir, se!' C. BROCKELMANN,op. cit. Suppl. i. 361-362.
3 La/'if al-ishrt, see ibid. i. 433, Suppl. i. 772.
4 'Ar'is al-bayn, see ibid. i. 414, Suppl. i. 735.
6 l'fz al-bayn, printed at Hyderabad in 1912.
6 For bibliography, see C. BROCKELMANN,op. cit. Suppl. i. 355.
7 R. A. N1cHOLSON,The ldea of Personality in Islam 27-28.
8 L. MAsSIGNONtranslates 'I am the Creative Truth'; see his edition of the Kitb al-Tawsin,
9 Ibid. 134.
10 So R. A. N1cHOLSON,Studies in lslamic Mysticism 79.
11 See J. W. SwEETMAN, op. cit. ii. 98.

it constituted an intolerable affront to orthodox Moslem sentiment that

al-1:fallj should claim to have God indwelling in him in this technica!
sense. Other notions of his which gave great offence were his proposal
that Jesus and not Mohammed was the perfect type of the 'deified man 1,'
and his argument that lblis, the Devil, in refusing God's command to
worship Adam 2 proved himself to be a true believer in the Divine Unity.
'If you do not recognise God,' he said, 'at least recognise His signs. I
am that sign, I am the Truth, because through the Truth I am a truth
eternally. My friends and teachers are Iblis and Pharaoh. lblis was threa-
tened with Hell-fire, yet he did not recant. Pharaoh was drowned in the
sea, yet he did not recant, for he would not acknowledge anything between
him and God. And I, though I am killed and crucified, and though my
hands and feet are cut off - Ido not recant'. 3
The scandal of al-1:fallj's crucifixion, due perhaps rather to the provo-
cativeness of his language than to the extremeness of his doctrine - for
fundamentally there appears to be little to choose between his 'unification
with God', and al-Junaid's 'passing away and continuance in God', while
even his celebrated Ana 'l-[Jaqq had parallels in the utterances of al-
Bistmi 4 - this sensational event, so far from discouraging the Sufis,
was accepted by them as a challenge. Within half a century Ab N a;;r
al-Sarrj (d. 378/988), Ab Bakr al-Kalbdhi (d. ca. 385/995) and Ab
Tlib al-Makki (d. 386/996) had all written closely-reasoned books to
prove that Sufism was entirely in harmony with orthodox Islam. The
Kitb al-Luma' of the first of these, edited by R. A. Nicholson 5 , opens
with the bold claim that the Sufis rank equally with the traditionists
and the jurists as true scholars and therefore heirs of the Prophet 6
In making this assertion al-Sarrj was tacitly seeking to establish that
Sufism belonged to the category of sciences known as Islamic and had
nothing to do with foreign branches of knowledge such as philosophy.
'The Sufis agree with the jurist and the traditionists in their beliefs ...
lf they fall short of them in any point of knowledge, they have recourse to
them when in difficulties about legal ordinances or religious prescrip-
tions 7 .' At the same time the deductions drawn by the Sufis from the

1 R. A. N1cHOLSON,The Idea of Personality in Islam 30.

2 Koran vii. II.
3 Kitab al-Tawiisn 51-52.

See AL-SAHLAJ,op. cit. 108.

6 Gibb Memorial Series, London, 1914; supplementary pages edited by A. J. ARBERRY
(London, 1947).
6 Kitab al-Luma' 5.
7 Ibid. ro.

Koran and the Traditions were more abundant than those made by the
jurists, because the latter were only concerned with outward regulations
whereas the Sufi science, being based on divine disclosures, was unlimi-
ted 1 . Sufism was therefore a religieus science in its own right, and in
common with the other religieus sciences it hat its own structural pattern
and technica! terms; these al-Sarrj was at great pains to define, digres-
sing in a long parenthesis to explain -- or perhaps rather to explain away
- the ecstatic utterances (shafl;iyt) of Ab Yazid al-Bistmi as expoun-
ded by al-Junaid, and much-criticised statements attributed to al-
Shibli (d. 334/946) and others.
Whereas al-Sarrj did not hesitate to quote al-}:Iallj by name and
with approval 2, al-Kalbdhi in his Kitb al-Ta<arruf 3 , though making
use of the poems and sayings of the Baghdadi martyr, took the precaution
of citing him always anonymously 4 It has been shown that al-Kalbdh
in giving his account of the theological tenets of the Sufis followed closely
the articles of faith contained in the 'creed' called al-Fiqh al-akbar II 6
For the rest, the Kitb al-Ta<arruf resembles the Kitb al-Luma> in
defining and describing the various mystical 'states' and 'stations' which
are illustrated by sayings ascribed to famous Sufis. But al-Kalbdh's
treatise, which enjoyed high esteem in later times 6 , is a mere essay in
comparison with the substantial Qt al-qulb of Ab Tlib al-Makki 7
This famous and well-organised work, which was much used by al-
Ghazli 8, argued the case for Sufism as against scholastic theology by
offering to prove that the Sufis alone had remained true to the Prophet's
example and teaching 9 The second half of the book purports to be a
detailed exposition of the 'five pillars' of Islam and other points of ritual,
thus giving a superficial resemblance to the standard treatises on Mos-
lem jurisprudence; the authorities cited are however not lawyers but
Sufi saints and scholars.
The eleventh century also produced a erop of Sufi manuals; the classica!
period of fonnation was now felt to be definitely past, and scope for origin-
ality was largely confined to the organisation of coherent schemes for
1 Ibid. 18.
2 Ibid. 108, 231, 303, 345, 346.
3 Edited (Caro, 1934) and translated (Cambridge, 1935) by A. J. ARBERRY.
4 Quotations are introduced by the phrase 'One of the great Sufis said'; see L. MASSIGNON

op. cit., 'Textes Hallajiens' 10-22.

6 See A. J. ARBERRY,The Doctrine of the Sufis xiv-xv.
8 For commentaries, see C. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. i. 200, Suppl. i. 360.
7 Printed at Cairo in 1310/1893 and 1341/1932.
8 See AL-GHAZL's remark in al-Munqidh min al-q.all (Beirut, 1353/1934) 121.
9 See passage translated in A. J. ARBERRY,Sufism 68-69.

spiritual development based upon the sayings and writings of the great
saints of the eighth and ninth centuries. To Abil <Abd al-RaJ:imn al-
Sulami of Nishapur (d. 412/1021) we owe the oldest surviving biographical
history of Sufism; his T abaqt al-$fiya is a valuable primary source 1 ,
though by no means so extensive and documented as the massive Jfilyat
al-auliy' of Abil Nu<aim al-I!;,bahni (d. 430/1038). The latter work has
been printed in ten volumes 2 ; of these the great bulk is taken up with
lives of Companions and early Moslems who had nothing particular to do
with the growth of Sufism, bnt some one-third of the whole is of capital
importance. Abil Nu<aim was indeed primarily a biographer and wrote on
saints only incidentally 3 ; al-Sulami specialised in ascetic and mystica!
themes, and he is the author, among other hooks, of the best study of the
Malmatiya or antinomian Sufis 4 His pupil Abu '1-Qsim al-Qushairi
(376-465/986-1074) composed the most famous general treatise on
Sufi doctrine, his well-known Risla which still awaits critica! editing 6 ;
among other extant works are the commentary on the Koran already
mentioned, the Sharf,, al-asm' al-fiusn on the meanings of the 99 'beauti-
ful Names' of God, and the Kitb al-Mi<rj, a mystica! monograph on the
story of Mohammed's Ascension. The Risla has been extensively used
by all subsequent writers on Sufism, eastern as well as western; it took its
place in the curriculum of mediaeval Moslem colleges, and more than any
book was influential in winning for Sufi doctrine and practice a secure
place within orthodox Islam 6 The earliest Persian treatise on Sufism
was also composed during this century; the Kashf al-maf,,jb of Hujwiri
(fl. 450/1057), edited by Zhukovski 7 and translated by Nicholson 8 , is
of especial interest as containing the first attempt to isolate 'schools'
deriving from the teachings of individual Sufis. Abil Ism<il al-Harawi
al-An!;,ri (d. 481/1088) made an inflated Persian version of al-Sulami's
Tabaqt al-$fiya which later provided the framework for the Nafaf,,t
al-uns of the poet Jmi; he also composed a brief outline of the Sufi
'path' in Arabic, the Manzil al-s'irin, on which many commentaries

1 Edited by NR AL-DN SHARBA(Caro, 1372/1953).

2 Printed at Caro in 1351-57/1932-38.
3 For bis other works see C. BROCKELMANN, op.cit. i. 362, Suppl. i. 617.
4 Edited by A. E. AFFIFI, see note 20 above.
6 Fora German epitome, see R. HARTMANN,Al-Koschair's Darstellung des Sftums.
6 See A. J. ARBERRY,A twelfth-century reading list (Chester Beatty Monographs, 2) I 3, no. 56;

M. BEN CHENEB,tude sur les personnages mentionns dans l'idjdza du Cheikh 'Abd el Qddir el
Fsy 366-367.
7 Pu blished at Leningrad in l 926.
8 First edition 19II, second edition 1936.

were written 1 , and in Persian he made a choice colJection of Munft

or private prayers interspersed with quatrains. 2 The Persian literature
Sufism was further developed and enriched by the dialect verses of Bb
Thir, a wandering dervish the date of whose death is quite uncertain, 3 ,
and the sayings of Ab Sa'd ibn Abi >1-Khair (357-44r/967-ro49)
with whom Avicenna corresponded 4 , as collected by Ibn al-Munawwar a
century and a half later 5
The classica! pattern of Sufi ascetic and mystica! theology had by now
taken more or less final shape. The religious life was felt to be in the
nature of a journey; the first station of pilgrims on the way (tariqa) to the
truth (J.iaqiqa)was, as all agreed, repentance -- 'repenting of everything
except God' as Abu >l-I:Jusain al-Nri (d. 295/908) expressed it 6 The
mystic thereafter passed through a succession of 'stations' and 'states' in
bis progress towards the goal of unification. The difference between a
'station' and a 'state' is that whereas the former can be acquired and
mastered by the traveller's own efforts, the latter are spiritual feelings
and disposition over which he has no control; 'they descend from God
into his heart, without his being able to repel them when they come or to
retain them when they go 7 lt was al-Junaid who said that 'states are
like flashes of lightning 8 ' which do not persist; 9 al-Qushair remarked
that 'states are gifts, stations are earnings 10 .' The theorists differ in the
schemes which they construct for the mystic's adventure from repentance
to unification, but their systems are broadly similar 11
Reference has been made above to the fact that Hujwri in the middle
of the 5/rrth century was able to enumerate twelve distinct 'sects' of Sufis
iof which two are reprobated and then approved 12 .' He names the sects
after the great teachers who, in his view, founded them. The 'approved'
1 An edition of the commentaries is being prepared by Father S. DE LANGIERDE BEAURECUEIL,

who published the commentary of MaJ:,miid al-Firkw at Cairo in 1953 (Publications de l'Institut
Franais: Textes et Traductions, 17).
2 English translation by A. J. ARBERRYin lslamic Culture (1936) 369-389.
3 See V. MrnoRSKY in Encyclopaedia of Islam iv. 6u-614; English translations by E. HERON-
ALLEN (London, 1902) and A. J. ARBERRY(Cambridge, 1937).
' See Jamibr sa (Coard'ii,-il" 1335/1917) 32-36.
6 In the Asiiar al-tau[ld (edited by V. ZHUKOVSKI at Moscow in 1899), see A. R. NicHOLSON,
Studies in I slamic Myslicism 1-76.
6 HuJWIRI,Kashf al-ma[lj'J (translatedby R. A. N1cHOLSON)294,;AL-KALBDHi, Kitb al-
Ta'arruf 64; AL-QusHAIRi, Risla 45; AL-SARRJ,Kitb al-Luma' 43-44.
7 See R. A. N1cHOLSON,The Mystics of Islam 29.
8 HuJWIRI, op. cit. 182.
9 See AL-SARRJ,op. cit. 42.

10 Risla 32.
11 Sec A. J. ARBERRY,Sufism 75-79.

12 HuJWiRI, op. cit. 130, 176.


sects derive from al-Mu}:lsibi, al-Qa~~r (d. 27r/884) 1, al-Bistmi, al-

Junaid, al-Nr, al-Tustari, al-Tirmidhi, al-Kharrz, Ibn Khaff (d.
37r/982) and al-Saiyri (d. 342/953); the 'reprobated' sects are the I:Jul-
ls ('lncamationists') who spring from Ab I:Julmn al-Dimashq, and the
I:Jalljis who follow Fris 2 No other author gives us such detailed docu-
mentation for the particular tenets held by these various schools, and it
remains a matter for discussion whether Hujwri's statements on this
head are reliable, or whether he is not rather imitating the writers on
Moslem sects and schisms, such as al-Ash<ar (d. 324/935) 3 and al-Bagh-
ddi (d. 429/ro39) 4 , in order to prove that the Sufis also have their special
sets of doctrines. At all events, there is little in common between his 'sets'
and the 'Orders' which carne into being from the twelfth century onwards.
Folfowing the Sunn revival initiated by al-Ash<ar and continued by
al-Bqillni (d. 403/ror3) 5 and al-Juwain (d. 478/ro85) 6 , Ab I:Jmid
al-Ghazl of Tus (451-505/ro59-rrrr) made a distinguished career
as a Shfi< lawyer and an Ash<ar theologian, only to reach the conclusion
that the intellect alone was an insufficient guide. Having resigned his
professorship in the Niimiya Academy of Baghdad, founded by the
great Seljuk vizier Niim al-Muik ( d. 485/ro92), he took up forsomeyars
the life of a wandering dervish; his studies of the Sufi writings, together with
the mystica! experiences which ensued af ter his ascetic exercises, convinced
him that the personal awareness of God which the Sufi discipline promised
was in fact a reality, and a proof of the truths of revelation superior
to human reason. The description which al-Ghazli left of his conversion
is one of the most famous documents in the Ara bic language 7 In his
pre-Sufi period he had waged merciless war against the philosophers in-
cluding Avicenna (d. 428/ro37), who had expressed sympathy for the
mystica! stand point 8 ; the T aha/ut al-falasif a enumerates twenty points
on which the followers of Plato and Aristotle contradicted themselves, and
of these three are held to be heretical and punishable by death - the
doctrine of the etemity of the world, the view that God only has knowledge
of universals, and the belief that the soul and not the body surv1ves
1 Leader of the Malmats of Nishapur, see AL-SULAM,Tabaqt al-Sufya 123.
9 HUJWR, op. cit. 130-131, 176-266.
3 In his Maqlt al-Islmiyn (ed. H. RITTER).
4 In his al-Farq bain al-firaq (translated by K. C. SEELY, and A. S. 1-IALKIN).
5 In his al-Tamhd (edited by MAl;IMDMul;IAMMADAL-KHUJ;>AIRand Mul;IAMMAD'ABD AL-
1-IDABii RiDA).
8 In his al-Irshd (edited and translated by J. D. LucIANI).
7 For a new translation of al-Munqidh min al-4all, see W. M. WATT, The Faith and Practice
of al-Ghazl.
8 In his Kitb al-Ishrt, see A.-M. Go1cHoN, Livre des Directives et Remarques 483-501.

death 1 It was over this last issue in particular that al-Ghazali disclosed
his final opposition to the Neoplatonist teaching which had so powerfully
influenced al-Frb and Avicenna and threatened at one time to domin-
ate Sufi thought; for whereas the philosophers looked to union with the
Active Intellect as the highest human goal, al-Ghazl preferred to follow
al-Mul)sibi, and with him Moslem orthodoxy, in accepting literally the
Koranic picture of Paradise 2 Thus it is that his celebrated compendium
of mystica! theology, the I!i,y' <utm al-dn, culminates in a graphic ac-
count of the Last Day presented in terms to which not even the most
fundamentalist theologian could object. The work of al-Sarrj, al-Ka-
lbdhi, al-Makk and al-Qushairi had now been triumphantly completed.
After al-Ghazl, Sufism of the conservative type remained secure against
the charge of unorthodoxy; the long-suspected connexion with Greek
philosophy and Christian theology had been finally disproved; thence-
forward the Moslem mystic, provided he avoided further flirting with
Plato and Plotinus, could successfully represent himself as the champion
of ancient and unadulterated Islam.
But the temptation to speculate was not always resisted; and for one
brilliant thinker, bom within half a century of al-Ghazl's death, the
consequences were fatal. Ya}:ty al-Suhrawardi, executed at Aleppo in
578/n91 by order of Saladin, who has been studied and edited in masterly
fashion by H. Corbin 3 , so far from being discouraged by the disrepute
into which philosophy had latterly fallen, proposed to prove 'the imperi-
ous conjunction of philosophical knowledge and mystica! esperience'
in an all-embracing theosophy 4 Ha ving proved to this own satisfaction
that the Peripatetic and illuminative systems were by no means irrecon-
cilable, he enlisted Empedocles, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,
Hermes and Zoroaster to support his contention that metaphysics and
mystica! intuition revealed one and the same truth. But he had been bom
out of time, and lived out of place, for his ambitious syncretism to succeed;
to the hostile Sunni observer there seemed to be too much in common
between his fashion of reasoning and the detested Ism<il heresy so re-
cently uprooted from Egypt. His fluent pen, which has produced a
veritable torrent of writin 5 s of most ascinating quality in Persian and
1 See Tahfut al-falsifa (Cairo, 1366/1947) 315.
2 As given by AL-MUl;IASIB in his Kitb al-Tawahhum. For a bibliography of al-Ghazali, see
C. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. Suppl. i. 745; arld A. J. WENSINCK, La Pensie de Ghazzl, and M.
SMITH, Al-Ghazali the Mystic.
3 Opera metaphysica et mystica: i (Istanbul, 1945) and ii (Teheran 1952), with other references
mentioned therein. See also A. J. ARBERRY, Introduction to the History of Sufism 71-72.
4 H. CoRBIN, Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques 4.

Arabic - the Jfikmat al-ishrq 1 and the Haykil al-nr 2 are the best-
known of a distinguished company - was stilled by the Victorious
Sultan's murderous decree before he had reached his fortieth year.
A safer and more durable way had however already been chosen by
one who, almost uniquely, combined adherence to the strict J:Ianbali
school of jurisprudence with the acceptance of Sufi discipline. 'Abd al-Qdir
al-Jlni (471-561/ro78-n66), a Persian by birth like al-Qushairi,
al-Ghazli and Ya~y al-Suhrawardi, achieved fame, first as a lawyer
and later as a preacher and a saint, in Baghad. His sermons were col-
lected by his son and published as the Futu!t, al-ghaib 3 ; his prayers have
also been preserved, to be used by his followers down the centuries;
while guidance on ritual and ethica! ad vice are contained in his al-Ghunya
li-tlibi tariq al-!t,aqq4 But his celebrity rests not so much upon his writings
as on the fact that he was the founder of the oldest and most widespread
Sufi religious order, the tariqa called after him Qdirya. Originally this
confraternity was confined to the ribt in Baghdad where al-Jlni
preached, and to the headship of which his son succeeded; in time the
movement reached out to all parts of the Moslem world, from l\forocco to
Indonesia. The organisation of this brotherhood follows the same pattern
as that of other Sufi Orders. In every district within its network the local
branch meets for religious exercises and instruction in a 'lodge' under the
direction of a resident 'master'; membership of the Order is secured by
preliminary training and a simple initiation ceremony, in which the
neophyte is invested in the khirqa or distinguishing robe. The 'mother-
lodge' at Baghdad, with the tomb of the founder, is in the charge of
a direct descendant of 'Abd al-Qdir and is visited by thousands of
pilgrims every year. The Qdirya, like other Orders, have their own
particular dhikr (commemoration service) with constantly repeated
prayer-formulae: 'l ask pardon of the mighty God; Glorified be God;
may God hless our Master Mohammed and his household and Compa-
nions; there is no god hut God 5 .'
It was through the Orders that Sufism set the seal upon its triumph in
the long battle for recognition as an orthodox movement. Whereas
theology never appealed to the minds of more than a small circle of in-
tellectuals, mysticism of the comparatively simple kind propagated by
1Edited and analysed by H. CoRBINin op. cit.
2 See S. VANDEN BERGH, 'De Tempels van het Licht door Soehrawerdi' in Tijdschrift van
Wijsbegeerte (1916) 30-59.
3 Translated by W. BRAUNE(Berlin, 1933).

4 Printed at Cairo in 1288/1871 and 1322/1905.

6 See H.A. R. Grna, Mohammedanism 156.

the confraternities won the hearts of the great masses, the more so since
the 'lodges' became centres at once of friendly intercourse and social
welfare. So it carne about that Sufism won far more converts to Islam,
as the remoter lands of Asia and Africa were opened up, than the erudite
ulema could have hoped to do; on the other hand the latter 'have patient-
ly striven to educate the newly converted or semiconverted elements in
the fundamental principles of the Faith 1 .' The total number of Orders is
very considerable; even more numerous are sub-Orders which have
branched off from the parent bodies 2 In this essay only a few of the
main fraternities are mentioned.
In the twelfth century Sufism also completed its most important
literary conquest in achieving mastery over the forms and conventions of
Persian poetry. The quatrain (rubii<) had already been used for mystica!
themes by An~ri and Abu Sa'id ibn Abi >1-Khair, and in the poems of
'Umar Khaiym (d. 526/n32) one may detect parodies of the Sufi
style 3 Now Sanfi (d. ca. 550/n56) exploited for mystical purposes not
only the forma! ode (qa~da) and the lyric (ghazal) but also the epic in
rhyming couplets (mathnawi); his lf adqat al-'/:iaqqa4, with its alteration
of didactic and illustrative anecdote, is a kind of poetic adaptation of the
prose treatise such as that of al-Qushairi. Niimi of Ganja (d. 599/1202)
followed this fashion in his M akhzan al-asrr 6, before turning to more
romantic and heroic subjects. A little later Farid al-Din <Attr was com-
posing a whole series of mystical epics; of these the most famous are the
M anfiq al-fair, an allegory in which thirty birds, symbolising various
types of worshippers, seek union with the fabulous smurgh which repre-
sents God 6 , and the Asrr-nma and Ilh-nma, both modelled on
Sanfi's pioneer work 7 In the mystical lyric the language of human pas-
sion, which Rbi'a of Basra had introduced into Sufi discourse, is employed
insistently and almost monotonously to express the mystic's now
despairing, now triumphant courtship of the divine Beloved. This amatory
theme had indeed been subtly developed by Af.imad al-Ghazli (d.
517/n23), brother of the more celebrated Abu J:Imid; in his Sawni'f:i 8 ,
like An~ri's Munjt a mixture of prose and verse, he invented a form

1 Ibid. 154.
2 For a list of the Orders, see L. MASSIGNON in Encyclopaedia of Islam iv. 669-672.
3 See A. J. ARBERRY,Omar Khayym 41-42.
4 Printed at Teheran (edited by MunARRTSRil;>Aw)in 1329/1950.

6 English translation by G. H. DARAB(London, 1945).

6 French translation by M. GARCINDE TAssv (Paris, 1863).
7 Edition of Ilhi-nJma by H. RITTER (Istanbul, 1940).
8 Edition by H. RITTER (Istanbul, 1942) and by MAHDBAYN(Teheran, 1322/1943).

that was afterwards copied by many writers, among them <Jrq (d.
688/1289) in his Lama't and Jm (d. 892/1498) in his Law>i!i,1 .
Sufism had by now penetrated as far west as Morocco and Spain.
A\imad al-Rif' (d. 578/1182), founder of the Rif'ya Order noted its
miraculous manifestations 2, was indeed bom in Iraq though his family
were emigrants from the Maghreb 3 But Ab Madyan al-Tilimsni
(d. 598/1193) was a native of a village near Seville; educated at Fez, he
absorbed the teachings of al-Ghazl during a visit to the east, from which
he retumed to disseminate a moderate and simplified Sufism among the
North African masses 4 His pupil Ibn Mashsh (d. 625/1228) is famous
chiefly as the teacher of Abu >I-}:Iasanal-Shdhil (593-656/1196-1258)
of Tunis, author of mystica! epigrams and litanies, who gave his name to
the Shdhilya Order; he is regarded as the patron saint of Mocha 'and,
indeed, the originator of coffee-drinking b.' But the most celebrated of
all the Sufis of the west was Mu\J.yal-Dn lbn 'Arab; bom at Murcia in
560/1165, he studied Traditions and Law in Seville and Ceuta before
coming under the influence of the Spanish school of theosophy that looked
to lbn Masarra (d. 319/931) as its originator 6 After eight years' residence
in Tunis, he set forth in 598/1202 for the east where he travelled extensi-
vely, settling in Damascus to die there in 638/1240. A most prolific
author - well over 200 separate works ascribed to him have survived,
including a large quantity of poetry - he summed up his extremely
complex and syri.cretistic system in the prodigious al-Fut!i,t al-Makkya
in 560 chapters 7 ; a more concentrated statement of his speculative theo-
sophy, with particular reference to the theory of prophecy, is contained
in the Fu$S al-!i,ikam 8 lbn 'Arab ranged far and wide through the
the realms of thought to collect the multitudinous elements out of which
he constructed his mystica! philosophy, denounced as pantheistic by his
orthodox critics. 9 His most sensational claim, in which he revealed his
indebtedness to al-Tirmidh, was the assertion, 'I am the Seal of the
saintship, no doubt, the Seal of the heritage of the Hashimite (i.e. Mo-
hammed) and the Messiah' 10.
1 Edition and translation by E. H. WHINFIELD (London, 1906).
2 See E. W. LANE, Modern Egyptians i. 305.
3 D. S. MARGOLIOUTH in Encyclopaedia of Islam iii. 1, 156-57.
4 G. MARCAISin Encyclopaedia of Islam (new edition) 137-138.
5 C. NIEBUHR, Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien i. 439.
6 See bibliography in C. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. Suppl. i. 379.
7 Printed at Cairo (in four folio volumes) in 1269-74/1853-58 1 surnrnarised in M. AsfN PALACIOS,

El Islam cristianizado.
8 Edited (Cairo, 1365/1946) by A. A. AFFIFI, who is preparing an English translation.
9 See especially IBN T AIMYA,Majm'at al-ras'il i.

10 See al-Fut/,t al-Makkya i. 319.


In lbn 'Arab's system, which exercised a profound inftuence on all

later speculative Sufism, God is Absolute Being and the sole source of all
existence; the universe possesses only relative being, either actual or
potential. Before coming into existence, things of the phenomenal world
were latent in the mind of God as fixed prototypes (a'yan thabita), which
are intermediaries between the one Reality and the world of multiplicity.
Union with God is not a becoming one with God, hut rather a realisation
of the already existing fact that the mystic, as being eternally in God's
mind, is one with God. The creative principle of the universe - the
First Intellect of the N eoplatonists is the Reality of Mohammed ( al-
b,aqqatal-M ub,ammadya), the Logos comprising all the logoi or prophets;
this principle finds its fullest manifestation in the Perfect Man, the mi-
crocosm in which are reflected all the perfect attributes of the macrocosm.
Just as Mohammed's Reality was the creative principle of the universe,
so the Perfect Man was the cause of the universe, being the epiphany
of God's desire to be known; for only the Perfect Man knows God, loves
God, and is loved by God, and for his sake alone the world was made 1 .
Many of the essential features of this system are subsumed in the poems
of Ibn 'Arab's Egyptian contemporary lbn al-Fril (d. 632/1235); his
N atm al-sulk, a monorhyme epic in 760 couplets, is the supreme artistic
expression of a theosophy in which the mystic's goal is shown to be union
not direct with God, hut with the Reality of Mohammed as the perfect
theophany 2 It is in this famous poem that the verse occurs which was
fastened on by his opponents as proving him a heretic: 3
'And my spirit is a spirit to all the spirits; and whatsoever thou seest
of beauty in the universe flows from the bounty of my nature.'
lbn al-Fril in his Khamrya-ode also epitomises the wine-symbolism
which became so characteristic a feature of Persian mystical lyric 4
While lbn 'Arabi and Ibn al-Fril were giving voice in their different
ways to that type of hold and adventurous Sufism, an amalgam of alien
philosophies with Moslem dogmas, which had cost al-I:lallj and Ya.]:iy
al-Suhrawardi their lives, the soberer tradition of al-Junaid, al-Qushairi
and al-Ghazli was being continued by Shihb al-Dn al-Suhrawardi
(539--632/1145-1234), pupil of al-Jln, founder of the Suhrawardya
Order, who met Ibn al-Fril et Mecca in 628/1231; among his many
1 For a fuller analysis, see A. E. AFFIFI, The Mystical Philosophy of Mu/lyid Dfo-lbnul 'Arabi.
2 For an analysis and full English translation, with bibliography, see A. J. ARBERRY, The
Poem of the Way (Chester Beatty Monographs, 5).
3 See R. A. N1cHOLSON, Studies in lslamic Mysticism 194.
4 French translation by E. DERMENGHEM (Paris, 1931).

students in Bagdad, where he enjoyed the patronage of the caliph al-

N~ir, were the celebrated Persian poet Sa'di (d. 691/1292) 1, and the
saint Bah> al-Din al-Multn (d. 660/1261) who introduced his teaching
into India. Shihb al-Din's literary fame is secured chiefly by his 'Awrif
al-ma'rif, a most important genera! treatise on Sufism which still awaits
editing and translation. 2
The greatest Sufi produced in the thirteenth century, and by far the
finest mystica! poet of Islam, was Jall al-Dn Rmi of Balkh (604-672/
1207-1273), son of Bah' al-Din Walad who was himself an eminent
theologian. Fleeing westwards before the Mongol invaders, the family
took up residence finally in Konia, the capita! of the western Seljuk
empire. It was in his twenty-fifth year that Rmi, who had received an
orthodox education, first conceived an enthusiasm for the Sufi discipline
and doctrine, being initiated into the higher mysteries by Burhn al-Din
MuJ.iaqqiq of Tirmidh. In 642/1244 he fell under the spell of the strange
personality of Shams al-Din Tibrizi, a wandering dervish then carne to
Konia; so powerfully was he affected by the encounter that thereafter
he signed most of his lyrics with Shams al-Din's name, and Rmi's
poems, some 2,500 in number, are still known as the Divn-i Shams-i
Tabriz 3 As if the richness of his lyrical output were not sufficient to
satisfy one man's urge for self-expression, Rmi also composed a most
masterly epic of Sufi doctrine in six large hooks, splendidly edited and
translated by R. A. Nicholson, the M athnavi-yi ma'navi which has been
called 'the Koran in the Persian language,' thus crowning the achieve-
ments of San'i .and 'Attr in this field of composition. In addition he
uttered about 2,000 quatrains 4 ; while his occasional talk was collected by
a disciple and edited under the title Fihi m fihi 6 Rmi accepted the
mystica! philosophy as lately expounded by lbn 'Arabi, and, 'assuming
the genera! monistic theory to be well known to his readers, he gives them
a panoramic view of Sufi gnosis (direct intuition of God) and kindles their
enthusiasm by depicting the rapture of those who "break through to the
Oneness" and see all mysteries revealed 6 .' He founded the Maulawi
(Mevlevi) Order of dervishes, famous for their whirling dance performed

1 See A. J. ARBERRY,Kings and Beggars S.

2 H. W1LBERFORCECLARKEin his translation of I:Ifi~ (Calcutta, 1891) published an unsatis-
factory version of a Persian translation of the 'Awrif al-ma'rif.
3 A critica! edition by BAo' AL-ZAMN FuRZNFARRis in preparation.
4 See A. J. ARBERRY,The Rub'yt of Jall al-Dn Rum, where a bibliography and a partial
translation are given.
6 Edited by BAo' AL-ZAMNFuRZNFARR (Teheran, 1330/1951).
6 R. A. N1cHOLS0N, Rm, Poet and Mystic 25.
Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abt I, Bd Vl!I, ~I

to the accompaniment of the reedpipe, whose headquarters are in Koma.

It cannot be claimed that Riimi contributed anything original to Sufi
thought in the abstract; on the other hand his genius was immensely
fertile in inventing images and elaborating situations to illustrate theo-
sophical ideas. The M athnavi abounds in anecdotes which testify to a
keen observation and a lively sense of homour; the lyrics and quatrains
contain many passages of exceptional beauty.
lbn <Arabi's teaching was continued by his pupil ~adr al-Dn al-Qna\\i
(d. 672/1273), whose numerous writings include an elaborate mystical
commentary on the first chapter of the Koran 1 , and by <Afif al-Din al-
Tilimsni (d. 690/1291), a poet who also wrote expositions of the works of
earlier Sufis 2 The doctrine of the Perfect Man, 'a phrase which seems
first to have been used by the celebrated Ibn a 1-<Arabi, although
the notion underlying it is almost as old as Sufism itself 3', provided
<Abd al-Karim al-Jili (d. 832/1428) with the theme of his celebrated
monograph al-Insn al-kmil 4 In this book 'he depicts Mohammed as
the absolutely perfect man, the first-created of God and the archetype of
all other created beings. This is, of course, an Islamic Logos doctrine. It
brings Mohammed in some respects very near to the Christ of the Fourth
Gospel and the Pauline Epistles 5 .' Philosophical form was thus given
to that idealised conception of the founder of Islam which had been
evolving through the centuries into a popular cult 6 ; closely associated with
this development was the worship of saints, where mysticism rapidly
degenerated into magie and against which the formidable J:Ianbali
theologian lbn Taimiya (d. 728/1328), spiritual ancestor of the modern
Wahhabi movement, forcefully and tirelessly protested 7 The work of
al-Jili may be regarded as the final expression in Islam of that attempt,
begun by Philo and continued by the early Christian philosophers, to
work out a coherent synthesis of speculative reason with infallible reve-
lation; it marks the culminating point in the centuries-long endeavour
to establish a complete Sufi theosophy.
For by the end of the fourteenth century Sufism had virtually spent
itself as a creative force in the realm of thought; though its influence on

1 See note 69 above.

2 See C. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. Suppl. i. 458.
3 R. A. N1cHOLSON, Studies in Islamic Mysticism 76; cf. 'ABD ALRAJ:IMN BADAw, al-Insn
al-kmil fi 'l-1 slm.
'For an analysis, see R. A. NICHOLSON, Studies in Islamic Mysticism 76-112.
6 Ibid. 87.
8 See especially T. ANDRAE, Die Person Mohammeds.
7 See M. BEN CttENEB in Encyclopaedia of Islam ii. 422, with references.

popular religion continued to grow, and its literary inspiration remained

unabated. Abu >J-l:fusain al-Shushtari (d. 668/1069), an ecstatic wande-
ring dervish who was bom in Andalusia and died in Egypt, broke new
ground by composing Sufi poems in a variety of Arabic dialects 1 . Persian
poetry from Sa<di to Jmi was thoroughly permeated by Sufi ideas and
images; and this was the finest period of Persian literature. The lyric
reached its zenith of artistic perfection in the work of l:ffii of Shiraz
(d. 791/1389); his fellow-countrymen, who used his poems as a kind of
sortes Virgilianae, called him Lisn al-Ghaib ('Tongue of the Unseen')
as a sign of their belief that everything he wrote had an inner meaning,
though it is not always easy to read a mystica! significance into some of
his erotic and bacchanalian passages 2 It was left to Jmi, whose Nafab,t
al-uns or Sufi biographies has already been mentioned, to complete the
spiritualisation of the Persian epic; he took such themes as the legen<l of
Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and the old story of Salaman and Absal,
and used them as allegories of the soul's quest for reunion with God. The
Sufi tradition in lyrica! and didactic verse spread from Persia to west and
east, strongly affecting the classica! literatures of Turkey and Moghul
India. The miracles and deep sayings of Sufi saints wcre sedulously col-
lected, and their biographies reverently recorded by admiring disciples.
After the metaphysical subtleties of lbn 'Arabi and his followers it is
refreshing to find a simple and more ancient fashion revived in the mystica!
aphorisms of lbn <At' Allh of Alexandria (d. 709/1309), whose al-lfikam
al 'Af>ya was the most popular text among the members of the Shdhi-
liya Order and. attracted the attention of many commentators 3 Mean-
while new Sufi confraternities continued to arise in various centres, to
spread their organisations more or less widely through the Islamic world.
Bah> al-Din Naqshband of Bokhara (d. 791/1389) founded the Naqsh-
bandiya Order which enjoyed great popularity in India and Indonesia;
his tomb lies in the village of Baveddin, 'whither pilgrimages are made
even from the most remote parts of China".' Ab 'Abd Allh al-Jazli
(d. 870/1465), a Moroccan Berber, famous as the author of the Dalii.>il
al-khairt, a collection of prayers for the Prophet, reformed the Shdhi-
liya brotherhood in the Maghreb to create the Jazliya Order; in later
times fraternity gave birth to several influential sub-Orders of which the
1 See C. BROCKELMANN, op.cit. Suppl. i. 483; an edition and an English translation have been
prepared by DR 'AL SMAL-NASHSHR.
2 See A. J. ARBERRY,Fifty Poems of lffi; 31-33.
3 See C. BROCKELMANN, op. cit. Suppl. ii. 146.
'D. S. MARGOLIOUTH in Encyclopaedia of Islam iii. 842, quoting VAMBERY,Travels in Central

best known are the 'lsawiya, founded by Sidi Mul)ammad ibn 'ls at
Meknes early in the sixteenth century, and the Derqwa, followers of
Miily al-Derqwi (d. II93/1779). The Bektsh Order of Turkey and
Albania, famous for its close association with the Janissaries and for the
Christian elements apparent in its ritual, is supposed to have owed its
origin to one I;Ijji Bektsh in the fourteenth century 1 The Chishtis
of India look back to Mu'n al-Din Chishti of Ajmer (d. 633/1236). In
Egypt the Badawiya Order, created by Al)mad al-Badaw (d. 674/1276).
was the parent of the Baiyiimi and Dasqi fraternities which had a great
vogue in the Delta. The Orders have often played an important part
in Moslem polities, but it was left to Sidi Mul)ammad al-Sansi (d. 1276/
1859) to found a military brotherhood which would bring into being in
modern times an independant kingdom 2
The ritual service prescribed for members of the brotherhoods differs
widely from Order to Order; the following description of the procedure
followed in one, the Mirghaniya of the Sudan, is not untypical. 'The
service is always under the charge of a khalfa who directs it and keeps
order. He calls those regular members who support the service fam'at
al-lailya (these bring such things as sugar, tea, coffee, and oil) but any
member may join in. Still, if he comes regularly he is expected to contri-
bute something towards expenses. If it is a regular [tarj,rano food is
provided, but if performed in a private [tsh the man thus honoured
entertains all the company and usually gives the khalifa a present of
money ... All should be ritually clean and have performed the evening
prayers. Flags are only carried on big occasions ... On arrival at the [tsh
the performers squat in a circle with a lamp, an incense bumer, and all
their footwear in the centre . . . First of all the khalif a exclaims, 'Al-
F ti[ta', and all recite it in concert. Then they chant the tahlil (l ilha
illa 'llah) a hundred times and the munshids sing the the mad[ta called
al-munbahya in which the help of God is besought. The second stage is the
chanting of the Maulid an-Nabi written by the founder of the order,
Mul)ammad 'Uthmn al-Mrghani ... The maulid lasts about two hours.
There now follows an interlude of chanting by the munshids of one or
more qa~idas in honour of the Prophet, during the singing of which the
company is refreshed with the Sudani tonic, mint tea. The final stage is
the dhikr. Here the real attempt to produce effects begins, the other has
all been preparatory. It commences very slowly, the dhkirn all standing
in a circle, with the formula l ilaha ill 'llh, chanted roo times, accom-
1 For a detailed study, see J. K.BIRGE, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes.
2 See E. E. EvANS-PRITCHARD. The Sanusi of Cyren.afra.

panied by a rhythmical bowing of the head and body first to the right
then to the left, the hands hanging loosely. The recitation and movements
naturally control the breathing - an important thing if emotional
effetcs are to be produced. Then the measure is quickened, more stress
being laid on the last syllable and the movements change to forward and
backward jerking. With each change the voice is made more raucous until,
at the final stage of jumping up and down, the words have degenerated
to an almost unrecognizable 'Allah' pronounced in a kind of pectoral
barking voice or like a rough saw. The first syllable is exhaled, the second
inhaled, then the process is reversed to inhalation-exhalation ... The
dhikr is closed by the J:tizbcalled the Prayer of the Khatmiya Tariqa,
the prayer for mankind, and the FtiJ:ta. After that they all relax and
the names of persons who need prayer are mentioned when they say the
Ftiha. Finally the food is brought in 1 .'
An explanation of the method and effect of pronouncing the formula
l ilha ill >l[hhas been given by a recent Sufi of the Naqshbandi Order,
Mu~ammad Amin al-Kurdi of Irbil in Iraq (d. 1332/1914). 'Keep the
tongue fixed firmly to the roof of the mouth. After drawing a <leep breath,
you should hold it, and make a beginning with the word l. Imagine that
you are taking it from below the navel; let it extend along the organs ...
and finally bring it up to the rational soul which is in the first lobe of the
brain. Follow this up by taking the hamza of ilha - in imagination -
from the brain, then let it descend until it finishes at the right shoulder-
blade; then draw it down to the spirit. Now imagine that you are taking
the hamza of ill,llh from the shoulder-blade; let it slide down the edge
of the middle of the breast until it finishes at the heart, which may be
imagined at this point as beating to the World of Majesty, with all the
force of the pent-up breath pressing against the core of the heart, until its
effect and heat are feit throughout the body. lts heat will burn up all the
corrupt particles in the body, while the sound particles will be irradiated
by the Light of Majesty. This process is to be repeated twenty-one times,
not automatically but reflectively and with due regard to the meaning
of the formula meditated. At the end of his exertions, the commemorator
( dhkir) will experience the result of his dhikr qalbi (cardiac commemora-
tion); he will lose all consciousness of being a man and apart of creation,
and will be entirely destroyed in the attraction of the Divine Essence 2 .'
The last great Sufi theologian, who made a final attempt to reconcile
Ibn <Arabi's theosophy with orthodox dogma, was <Abd al-Wahhb
1 J. S. TRIMINGHAM, Islam in the Sudan 215-217.
2 See A. J. ARBERRY, Sufism 132.

al-Sha<rani of Caro (879-973/1492-1565). Broadly educated in the

normal religious sciences, he joined the Shdhiliya brotherhood and
himself founded the Sha<rawiya Order. His numerous writings include
important works on dogmatics and Shfi< jurisprudence; his Sufi hooks
include a voluminous autobiography in which he enumerates the many
graces accorded to him by God, and a biographical dictionary of famous
mystics 1 . Syncretism of a novel kind was attempted by the Moghul
prince Dr Shukh, eldest son of Shh J ahn, who was executed in
1068/1659 by order of his brother Aurangzb. lnheriting the speculative
tastes of his great-grandfather Akbar, he tried to demonstrate in his
M aj'ma' al-baftrain the harmony between Sufi theosophy and the teachings
of the Vedanta 2 ; his other works include the Safinat al-auliyii', lives of
Moslem saints. But India in his time was the scene of a strong orthodox
revival, and his endeavour to accommodate Islam to Hinduism failed
Sufism as an intellectual force has now long since ceased to be effective;
at the present day its influence is popular and superstitious in character,
and makes itself felt through the activities of the Orders rather than by
teaching and writing. The sympathies of the intelligentsia have been
utterly alienated by the crude extravagances of the ritual performances;
Kemal Ataturk closed down the Orders in Turkey, and before the last
war the Egyptian authorities endevoured to suppress public demonstra-
tions. Nevertheless in 1938 a leading Egyptian newspaper printed an
article in which the following nostalgie paragraphs appeared. I t 'is not
everybody's privilege to have a Sheikh's tomb attached to his home, and
to have, as it were, his own private mulid once a year at his very gates.
It is one, however, enjoyed by Major Gayer-Anderson, the owner of the
beautiful old Arab house overlooking the Ibn Tulun mosque ... The
guests whom Major Gayer-Anderson invited to watch the festivities
from his house on Monday night were lucky; in addition to the usual
zikr there was a dancing dervish and a ragged performer who licked red-
hot knives, swallowed fin:, walked on burning ashes, and stuck skewers
through his cheek and tongue, all with the utmost sangfroid. With the
man standing less than a yard away, it seemed indisputable that the
skewer was really sticking through his cheek, though there was no hole
and no blood when he withdrew it, but no one present could explain how
it was done. Such performances are getting rarer every year. There are
always zikrs at every mulid, but few dancing dervishes can be seen, and
1 See J. SCHACHTin Encyclopaedia of Islam iv. 318-319.
1 Edited and translated into English by M. MAHFUS-UL-HAQ(Calcutta, 1929).

you have to go fairly far afield to find a fire swallower. The authorities
unfortunately frown on the purely secular side of a mulid; they have
gone so far as to sweep away the fairground which used to be a feature
of the Mulid el-Nebi at Abbassia, and it seems likely, unless someone
can persuade them to a more liberal point of view, that in a few years
time all the fun of the fair will be gone 1 .'
I t does not seem surprising in the circumstances that modern Islam has
not up to now produced a new al-Ghazli, or that leaders of thought such
as the late Sir Mul:iammad Iqbii.l (d. 1938) should condemn Sufism root and
branch. It remains to be seen whether the movement can ever recover
its former prestige in educated circles, and form the basis of a new mysti-
cism bridging the gulf between superannuated formalism and agnostic
1 Quoted from the Egyptian Mail (19 October 1938) in J. W. McPHERSON,The Moulids of
Egypt 2I0-211.