Spirituality in simple terms means to attain purification of the heart and soul and to develop a true, deep, and lasting connection with the supernatural reality. However, the most unfortunate and pathetic treatment has been meted out to the very concept of ‘Spirituality’, partly owing to its wrong conception and misinterpretation among common masses by pseudo-scholars and partly due to highly ambiguous, multiple sensed and metaphorical rhetoric employed by Sufis to express their “feelings and mystic experiences” that has sparkled unprecedented chaos amidst common masses and often set the path of deviousness.
Also one of the most tragic twists in the evolution of spirituality has been its conjugation with local cultures and religious traditions. It is here from that the notions of “pantheism”, “self-negation” crept into Islamic fabric and eroded it to its worst. Orientalist scholar “Loui Messi Niun” has made a candid and scholarly attempt in his magnum opus “Essai Sur Les Origines De Lexique Technique Dera Mystique Musul Mane” (Paris 1992) to prove that Islamic Sprituality/Tassawuf (The branch of Islamic knowledge which focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim.) traces its origin to Quran and prophetic teachings.
The word “Tassawuf” is indeed alien to Quranic vocabulary, and appears nowhere in Quran and Hadith (prophetic sayings). But in spirit “Tassawuf” is most proximal to the soul of Quran. Scholars diverge upon the lingual genealogy of word “Tassawuf”, and have plethora of views regarding the origin of this word. But almost all the words that are presumed to be “root” of word “Tassawuf” convey same sense and carry same essence. One of the expected roots of“ Tassawuf” is taken as “Al-Saffa” meaning cleanliness and purity as Shiekh Abul Fateh Basti views that “Tassawuf is a word derived from ‘Saffa’ meaning cleanliness”. Another renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh Ali Hujweri in his magnum opus “Kashful Mahjoob” also holds “Saffa” as root of Tassawuf and says “Tassawuf” means to cleanse one’s inner-self from dirt and miscreant elements”. The second root of “Tassawuf” is supposed to be the word “Al-Saffu” which means purity and chastity in friendship(with Allah) and thus Sufi means a person who has liberated himself from the calculational concerns of loss and gain and based his friendship with his lord (Allah) solely on pure love. There is a majority of Sufis who hold the belief that “Tassawuf” is derived from “Al-soof” meaning wool referring to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore thereby depicting the hardships and excesses resisted by Sufis in the path of Allah. Another meaning ascribed to the root Soof is “unidirectional” thereby referring to the orientation of heart and mind towards one ideal I.e, Allah and the constant strive to attain only his closeness. Piping all these meanings together Al-Rudhabari eloquently sums “The sufi is the one who wears wool on top of purity”. However Abu Rayan Al Biruni opines differently that Sufi is derived from Greek word meaning wisdom.
Among all the different roots of this word there runs a common thread of cleanliness, closeness and selflessness and thus Islamic Spirituality can best be seen as a sincere and exclusive effort to please Allah without any consideration of the bounties of heaven or the torments of hell. This kind of Spirituality simultaneously aims at invoking in man his quintessence and his relation to his lord. It deems man not as a bio-physical but as a spiritual being with infinite potential to fathom the depths of cosmos and comprehend the deepest of realities. Tassawuf aims at cleansing heart from all worldly lust and all material pursuits so that an uninterrupted relation between creator and creation can be brought about and the divine presence can be more vividly embraced even man is still in the ebb of earthly life. Tassawuf seeks to please of God by restoring within man the primordial state of “fitra”. The purpose of Tassawuf if seen in pragmatic prism is six fold and aims at rectifying man’s relation to Allah. These six stages have been enumerated by sufis as “Tazkiye Naffas”, “Safayie Qalab”, “Etaa’ti Haq”, “Mohabbati Ellahi”, “Razaye Ellahi” and “Mourifati Ellahi”. Thus this six fold path culminates with the “God consciousness” and attainment of Allah’s proximity. But this can’t be achieved without purifying inner-self from vicious and miscreant deeds, thus the foremost requisite is to cleanse the mirror of heart so that heart turns into “cosmic mirror” and depicts whole of universe.
Besides purification “Tassawuf” also paves a path of intellectual elevation. Since domain of senses is confined within a particular space time trajectory and thus senses cannot be deemed as the perfect and absolute source of knowledge. The fundamental fact remains that the ultimate reality, that every human seeks, as such is formless, tasteless, odourless and shapeless and thus requires extra sensory perception power to undertake its analysis and comprehend its texture. This super sensory power is termed as “intuition” or “Wijdaan” whose awakening is among the prime aims of “Tassawuf” .Sufi frees himself from normative space time fabric and makes direct envision of reality and enters a realm of metaphysics where multiplicity of things melts into unity one comes to encounter reality of reality. Every moment Sufi has an enlightening envision of reality and every moment Sufi comes closer to reality via intuitionalism.
Islamic Spirituality: A Textual Glimpse
It is also a misfortune that in contemporary times people, who are totally ignorant of Tasawwuf/Islamic Spirituality on grass root level have started compiling books on this delicate issue. Such persons have taken Tasawwuf merely at its face value and in doing so came up with an undesirable and pathetic description of this pious pristine.
However books compiled by classical Sufis really convey the essence of Tasawwuf and convey a vivid message and simple appeal of reverting back to our Allah. Some of the well-known works on Tassawuf are “Ahya-ul-Uloom” by Imam Mohammad bin Mohammad Ghazali, a voluminous book written around 11th century touches core and inner realities of Islam and presents an eloquent aesthetic portray underlying Islamic teachings. “Kittab-ul-lama’” by Shiekh Abu Nassar Siraaj one of the oldest books written on the subject of Tasawwuf written around 327 A.H, discusses the methodologies, ways of living of Sufis and their different groups based on their approach towards a particular issue like “Samma”, “Wajd” etc. “Ar Risalla Qushairiya” by an eminent Sufi Abul Qasim Abdul kareem Bin Houzan Qushairi in 438 A.H. Sayyid Ata Hussain while commenting on this book says “ It was composed with the purpose of rescuing Sufism from the ill fame to which it had been exposed by the extravagant antinomianism of the Malamatiya”.
A large chunk of book discusses the miracles of Sufis and the rest of book mainly speaks of metaphysics in Islamic context. Also an important work on Tasawwuf is “Awariful Mu’Arif” by Hazrat Shahab ud din Suhrawardi that mainly follows instructional lines for the follower of Tasawwuf. Last but not the least, there is an impactful book “Kashful Mehjoob” by Hazrat Dataa Ganj Baksh Ali Haujweri which is seen as the most emphatic and provoking book to awaken spiritual sense for those who share an ardent passion to trace out the reality of Islamic Spirituality.
The whole argument substantiates the fact that Islamic Spirituality (“Tassawuf”) if seen in evolutionary prism clearly speaks of itself as not being alien to Islam. Also its teachings and aims tally well with Quranic dictums. As such it is injudicious to deem Tasawwuf anti-Islamic and tag it as an outcrop of Greeks. The desirable course is to take wide dimensioned analysis of Tasawwuf and to censor its pragmatic part from an unbiased stance.
If done so then it is no wonder that every one of us will repeat the historical assertion of Imam Ghazali that “I spent ten years of my life in meditation and during this period I had an array of experiences the description of all of which is not possible. But one of the realities I felt convinced of is that Sufis are really on the path of Allah and marching towards real Mourifat (God-consciousness).Their lives are best among all; they are wiser than all and in chastity the stand ahead of all. Even if the wisdom of all wise men was assembled and virtues of all good doers were put together even then they cannot surpass the pedestal of Sufis as their thoughts and acts are continuously showered by prophetic light”.
General well being and spirituality are closely linked be it the spirituality assessment in counselling, spiritual dimensions and coping styles of people. Moreover, Spirituality is an important agency of overcoming pain, frustration, suffering, anxiety and other physical or mental ailments. It protects one from excessive material lust, drives, animal instincts, greed, dishonesty, thirst for more, etc.,. Moreover, Spirituality offers access to revealed wisdom not otherwise accessible thus enabling us to focus outside or beyond the self as well which helps us in positive psychological and mental development. It also offers access to self-knowledge and focus on the self besides enables us to conceptualize the metaphysical cosmos.
Thus it can be safely argued that spirituality is an integrating force between the self and the rest of the universe. Also it is the spirituality which forms a collaborative relationship between man’s psychological state, his mental well being and his beliefs and faith. It acts as a form of social and psychological control, where one treats search for divine reality as the measure of all things and handles mystery theologically. Spirituality thus is an essential force exerting influence on the self’s process toward integration, good mental health and ability to bear stress and strain. It makes us understand that there is something beyond mind and nature.
(Amir Suhail Wani is a Kashmir based freelancer, Comparative Studies Scholar, and R&D Engineer with SA Power Utilities Pvt Ltd. Feedback at [email protected])