Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Mysticism, Sufism and Practical Spirituality

All spirituality is either practical or it is not spirituality. There is no such thing as religion sans spirituality. There is no abstract or purely speculative religion and mysticism. All religions talk about the earth from which they arise. All religions have a way of transforming the world or at least transforming our attitude to the world. There is no spirituality outside or in contradiction to religion, the assertion of libertine spiritualists notwithstanding.  Such statements as samsara is nirvana/ The kingdom of God is within us/This very Garden is the Garden of Eden/There is no difference between this world and the other world/ Eternity is in time – that occur across different traditions foreground the point that traditional spiritual systems are  meant for this world and this world is the place for the other world. The other world is the depth of this world, the fifth dimension, so to speak of the otherwise four dimensional ordinary world. We may approach the question of spirituality in Islam by first defining Sufism so that the key aspect of its worldly character comes to the fore. It will be seen that Sufism is a series of therapeutic measures aimed at  changing our habitual personality so that we get a new personality not crippled by alienation, angst etc. and realize the highest potential of human spirit. What is urgent for all of us is our conquest of suffering and alienation and getting proximity to divine presence, to be true to our theomorphic nature, to partake of the great treasures of the spirit. Life asks all of us some very fundamental existential questions and wisdom lies in seeking to deal with them at individual level. We now see how Sufism takes up these fundamental existential questions. We shall particularly though not exclusively focus on Ibn Arabi as we explore these questions.

What is Sufism?

 In one word it is transformation. It is seeing the world in a new light bathed in new glory. It is seeing through God’s eyes. Spirituality in Islam is not escapism. Is involves taking the world seriously and even attempting to change it. Sufism is metaphysical, esoteric, universal, integral, supraindividual, supraformal, comprehensive, unconditioned perspective or dimension of the Quran) It is the essence of exoteric, theological, juristic, anthropomorphic, individual, limiting, formal, sentiment affected religion which is constituted by sha’ria.
To be a Muslim is to strive for husn (beauty and perfection) in every act and to strive to live in constant awareness of God as the famous sacred tradition called hadisi Jibriel states. Thus a Muslim is one who strives for perfection as demanded by faith.
There is a rhymed definition in ancient Persian dictionary: Sufi chest, Sufi sufist. “Who is a Sufi?  A Sufi is a Sufi.” This definition would be rejected as tautological by many scholars especially the Westerners.  In fact the Western logical propositional framework will be hard put to make sense of this definition.  Great Sufi masters have explained the fundamental term by means of poetic approach. It is a matter of realization not conceptualization. It is a matter of heart and not mind. It is something to be tasted rather than debated. Sufism is love affair with the Absolute. This is existential non-philosophical approach or definition as distinguished from his exposition from most of the “scholarly,” “learned” and historical exposition of the same. This also makes him invulnerable to much of traditional critiques of mysticism. He expands the scope of the term very much. Quoting  Abul Hasan’s statement that “Sufism was once a reality without a name and now Sufism is a name without reality” he says, “For many centuries Sufism existed without a name. It existed as reality.  That is why I say Jesus was a Sufi, so was Muhammad, so was Mahavir and so was Krishna.  Anyone who has come to know God is a Sufi. (Osho, 2004:9)  Thus he least cares for traditional historical approach that attempts to situate Sufism in the 1st or 2nd or 3rd C.E. Hijra.  A Sufi is one who has come to know God and knowing God isn’t knowing or believing in some personal God or theology but simply oneself.  That is why he calls “atheist” or non-theist Mahavir and Buddha Sufis. Sufism is an experience that needn’t be understood in theistic/atheistic format. 
Sufism simply means a love affair with God, with the ultimate, a love affair with the whole. It means that one is ready to dissolve into the whole, that one is ready to invite the whole to come into one’s heart (Osho, 1999:8). Ultimate Reality or God comes only when ego disappears in ‘fana’. Then only can God speak. Thought must be transcended to commune with the Reality (Al-Haqq) because conceptual intellect divides & posits dualism of subject & object. “I” must be annihilated in fana so that one mirrors Existence or God. Ego divides part from the whole, man from Existence or Divine Environment. So Sufi insistence on fana is a pro-environmental move. When one claims nothing over & against Existence or Reality or God & submits one’s will to cosmic will or will of Existence or God’s will,  real harmony is achieved. The fall of man is because of rise of separative consciousness that insists on living outside Divine Environment that is paradise. The Sufi has no name, no separate consciousness & therefore no identity. He wears God-given cloak & that why there is none besides God in Sufi’s cloak. Ideally Sufi can’t be characterized or named. That is where Sufism resists definition. To define is to limit, to exclude, to set apart, to give some identity. And Sufi implies that by definition against God. It is communion with the whole, the infinite. It partakes of divine infinitude. God seeing Himself in the mirror & God knowing Himself through God is what Irfan is really. There is no subject who experiences God because that means duality. Only God is-there is none besides God. Neither experiences nor experienced is there; only pure experience is there. God is the actual witness (Shahid) who declares Islamic Shahadah. Only God is & God is infinite, All-Possibility thus totally inclusive reality. Nothing exists besides Him. And God is Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Light, Knowledge, Perfection. And the Sufi is one who realizes all this. And that is why he blesses the whole existence, as God blesses it. Thus division between self & non self, man & nature, man & divinity isn’t real as the Sufi realizes doctrine of unity or tawhid. No environmentalist could go so far. The Sufi celebrates universe as theophany & epiphany of God.
Sufism is an experience. It is prelinguistic or paralinguistic apprehension or perception.  It is just awakened state, a state of attention.  One becomes a mirror reflecting Reality.  It is a state of pure awareness.  The Sufi by virtue of mystic experience gets transported into a state where speech comes without words.  He is utterly silent and thus in silences are all questions answered. There are no questions and thus no need of answer as the very questioning self is transcended, deconstructed.
           
Sufism as Silence
In the age that following Nietzsche is more or less post-metaphysical the only metaphysics possible is what may be called as the metaphysics of silence that has been characteristically the via negative of traditional mysticism. It describes the undifferentiated Absolute, the God beyond God or Godhead, the Beyond-Being or Non-Being or the Supraformal Essence. Here language and all representational stratagems fail. Here even the negative theology is not smart enough to do justice to the Divine Darkness, the Void, the Nameless Nothing. To quote just two statements of Sufis:
            Be silent that the Lord who gave thee language may speak. 
Rumi
The furthest from God among the devotees are those who speak the most of him.                                                                                                                       Bistami
The silence of the Buddha on fourteen metaphysical questions is the religious answer to all of them and Sufis too stand for something similar. The Prophet of Islam has also explicitly forbidden discussion on the Essence. This implies Islam, like Buddhism, is focused on practical problems and has not much to do with pure speculative exercises. Islam’s emphasis on orthopraxy is especially noted by Sufis who have expressly discouraged mere theoretical debates on religion and emphasized realization of such fundamental articles as kalima.
The Sufi grants  that one can't know the Truth in its absoluteness by the signs. He denies the seeker so only Truth remains.  Both knower and known disappear and only the pure experience of knowing remains.  The Sufi is a watcher or pure witness.  He allows existence or Reality or Truth (Real is equated with Truth in the East and Islam though not in the West and Truth isn’t reduced to property of propositions also in the East) to speak, having surrendered/transcended himself.  He becomes a hollow bamboo, a flute on which God plays the notes. In silence is revealed the treasure that God is.  This silence is because one can't speak with human tongue of the Ineffable, of the Unconditioned.  Absolute has never been defiled by human speech as Ramakrishna has said.  How could it be? Since nothing answers the question what is It as Jili says one has to be silent.  Of what one can’t speak one should be silent. Remarking on the oft quoted statement that Sufism is not qal but hal, a thing that needs to be tasted he says: “Sufism is not something that can be shown, proved, examined, certified, sanctioned. It is so interior” (Osho, 1981:217). What can one speak about such a thing which is so interior.

Sufism vis-à-vis (Post)Modernity
Modernity and post modernity have been negatively conditioned against traditional claims of religion. They have reacted against a wrong conception of religion, against reduction of religion to an ideology. It is religion taken as  a metanarrative, a system, an ideology explaining things, as theology’s talking of the otherworld or eternity at the cost of this world and time here-now, elaborate creedal formula coached in terms of propositions privileging the religious as distinct from or opposite to the secular, bypassing or opposing the realm of Manifestation or Nature so as to cultivate God consciousness, as parallel system of cognitive truths to which science must conform, as exclusionist marginalizing discourse, as some theory about the world towards which (post)modernity has reservations. It is (exoteric) theology’s logical, rational character and its pre-occupation with theological/ metaphysical abstractions that have nothing to do with our immediate concern, with here-now or this moment or our existential concerns, that postmodernism subverts. Sufism’s escapes these criticisms because it foregrounds living, existential, concrete facets of life and addresses serious problems quite effectively as the paper shows. What looks abstract, esoteric and mystifying otherwise is made to look quite natural and simple.
Sufism squarely faces nihilism  that is implied in the postmodernist rejection of idolatry, in the denial of all relative truths, in the denial of self or ego that exists in its own right.  Sufism denies that there is any meaning in the world, any bliss in things finite, any beauty in the phenomenal or the perishable. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity in Sufi perspective.  Everything perishes.  All relative meanings, relative truths are denied as only Absolute is absolute. The Sufi transcends all the worlds, all time dependent thought constructions.
The Sufi “vision” transcends all seeing, all imagining, all visualising, all constructions of thought and thus all perspectives on Reality.  The Sufi doesn’t talk about Reality or God but talks Reality or God.  He transcends the realm of “about” which theology is unable to do.  That is why the Sufi doesn’t need to interpret and wrangle about the question of interpretation.  He isn’t  caught up in the textual world at all.  He lives truth, is truth.  He doesn’t need mediation of language.  He is pure awareness, prereflective prelinguistic awareness. He has become a mirror as mind and separating principle of thought has disappeared. The Seer and seen has disappeared and only seeing is there.  Language doesn’t enter here.  No metaphysics of presence is there.  No centralism.  The Sufi is centered in God and thus in Nothingness or Void. God being not the name of a thing, a person, an entity and substance, a being, among other beings.  God is Reality, Isness in wahdatul wajudi (which is not synonymous with pantheism as it emphasizes transcendence of God unequivocally) perspective.  He is Pure Consciousness.  He eludes all apprehension.  One can well say He is not because Nothing is naught, blank, void to the conceptual intellect.  Nothing is like Him.  He signifies, in a way, impossibility of all signification.  Nothing can describe Him.  We shall elaborate this theme of unknowability of Absolute and vanity of all reasoning to show how Sufism escapes (and corrects in turn) postmodern agnosticism) critique.
 To the most fundamental question regarding the why of existence Sufism has an answer that converges with the position of postmodernism. The last word is for the Mystery, impenetrable mystery at the heart of existence. The Sufis’ characteristic humility and tolerance could well be traced to this fundamental assertion about the unknowability of the Real in discursive terms. The Sufis often quote the Prophet’s tradition (which even if not authentic expresses something which plainly follows from the Quranic emphasis on divine transcendence)  “God is a hidden treasure.”  Absolute in itself has really never manifested and can't manifest.  It remains unknowable.  The Absolute in its absoluteness is Nameless and It has no signs by which It can be approached.  It is beyond all perception, conception and imagination.  No qualification or relation (even such a category as existence) can be attributed to It for It even transcends transcendence.  No linguistic category can describe It.  It lives in permanent abysmal darkness and is ‘‘the most unknown of all the unknowns”.  It is Gayyibul-gayyib.  None can have, in principle, access to It.  The Pure Absolute or Essence (Dhat) in its fundamental aspect is beyond the insatiable human quest and all attempts to reach It, track it, pinpoint it, catch It in the net of language or realm of the finite or time, to conceptualize It, to imagine It, to speak about It, to affirm anything of It are doomed. Before the Ipseity or Dhat one can only be bewildered as Khaja Gulam Farid says “Where to seek! Where to find You Friend.  All the fiery creatures, human beings, forces of Nature and the entire world is amazingly drowned in the sea of bewilderment.  The Sufis, devotees, men of wisdom and learning have ultimately lost. Arshi and Bistami while embracing each other cry in vain…saints, prophets, mystics, poles and even messengers and deities incarnate proclaim weepingly that He is beyond the reach of vision.  Scientisits, erudites, gnostics and professionals in all humaility have admittedly resigned.  Ask Farid naive and simple: where do you find”(Qtd. in Qaisar, 1998:132). Essence (Dhat) in its fundamental aspect – and thus Meaning/Truth/ Presence/ Identity/ Reality per se – is beyond the human quest. God is “an unattainable ideal, a hopeless quest” as Whitehead wrote in his Science and the Modern World.  Before the Ipseity or Dhat one can only be bewildered according to Ibn ‘Arabî. The world is ultimately a Mystery, a Mystery of Mysteries and no rational or scientific approach could finally and completely demystify it. The world will never cease to be an object of wonder and fascination and Beauty never cease to be worshipped or sought or God glorified. Man must travel ceaselessly as love will never be satiated and  man’s quest for the Absolute will have no full stop in all eternity. Artists, scientists, mystics, philosophers and lovers shall never be out of business. Rationalization, familiarization, demystification and descaralization of the world that ultimately makes it inhuman, alienating and absurd and disrespectful towards the environment can’t happen in the Akbarian perspective that sees one essence and divine face in everything. Ibn 'Arabî says in Risâlat al-Anwâr "You should know that man has been on the journey ever since God brought him out of non-being into being.” The goal is not reached. For it is “the unspeakable, the impossible, the inconceivable” as Stace would say (Stace, 1952: 2). The goal is only glimpsed, sensed, and then lost. Meaning or Truth is never grasped in its fullness. It ever recedes. Truth escapes all our searching. We can have a vision of it, rather a faint glimpse of it through the phenomena which are His symbols. Knowing God is realizing that He in his essence can’t be known.“Gnosis is the realization of thy ignorance when His knowledge comes” as Junaid has said.(Qtd. in Perry, 1979).
 The postmodernist only sees the fact of our ignorance and nothing dispels his darkness because he chooses to be blind by denying that we can go outside language and history or discourse and thus intuition is denied especially by Derrida. Since all contradictory truths are unified in the Truth as al-Jili says one needn’t despair and be a skeptic. Postmodernist rightly sees the fact that logic or reason (Aristotelian) is wooden legged and bedeviled by contradictions.  But the Sufi though acknowledges this would unify all contradictions in Truth and celebrate life’s contradictions, its mystery, its transcendence of logic and reason.   The gnostic sees by means of God Himself as Sarraj says  and since God by definition is Truth so the Sufi sees Truth (or our inability from human perspective to see the Truth) and sees it whole, undiluted, directly.  The Quran denies man knowledge of Truth as long as he remains a self, a separate subject. Exclusivist totalizing attitude is rejected by the Quran in these words:  “Over every possessor of knowledge is one more knowing.” So we must all acknowledge our ignorance and let other speak as postmodernists would have it.  Whoso sees God transcends both speech and silence, as Niffari has said (Perry, 1979).  Since “All are one, both the visible and the invisible” as Shabistari says (Perry, 1979). The charges of dualism, binary thinking, marginalization and exclusivism can't be labelled on Sufism.  Oneness and undifferntiatedness of Being and emphasis on the subject’s inability to know the highest Principle or Absolute appropriates all possible problematization by deconstructionists.  The Sufi is one who has put duality away and sees two worlds as one.  One he seeks, knows, sees and calls as Rumi tells us. Even the binary of truth and falsehood, good and evil are transcended in Sufi vision. “Since I have known God, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart” as Abu Hafs Haddad said (Perry, 1979). This is because the Sufi is in a state where neither good nor evil entereth as BaYazid says (Perry, 1979).
The problem for postmodern man is how to reject nihilism. Mistrust in the ability of rational thought or rational metaphysics in the context of God, insistence on the ultimate unknowability or ungraspability of the Real/writing, a positive appraisal of "confusion" as a genuine means of "breaking through" to the Other/Real beyond our metaphysical constrictions, infinite impossibility of the text and disbelief in the autonomous substantiality of the self are some of the common points between Ibn ‘Arabî  and Derrida, the key postmodern figure as Ian Almond has noted in his study titled Sufism and Deconstruction. It appears that postmodernism questions idols of thought and rational philosophies only to leave us in an agnosticism where nothing is certain, nothing holy, nothing true, nothing worthy, nothing dependable. Ibn ‘Arabî, on the contrary, traveling farther and farther on the road of negation, is able ultimately to access the Real and bring the joyful news of infinite riches that are hidden in It. He finds nothing but God’s face in all directions, in all places. He celebrates everything that there is. For him all experiences are to be treasured because they lead us greater and greater knowledge of God. For him life is a revelation of the Real which is made of the substance of joy and therefore is a carnival of lights. God is, in one mystic’s sweet phrase, “the Great Sweetness.” Richard Rolle saw mystic communion as the soul’s participation in a supernal harmony – that sweet minstrelsy of God in which “thought into song is turned.” If everything is a veritable theophany and thus epiphany for Ibn Arabi what else than bliss or Ananda would describe his essentially aesthetic appropriation of Reality?
In his inclusive perspective the binaries of action and contemplation, grace and self effort, invocation and resignation or acceptance of divine will, religious and secular or sacred and profane, knowledge and faith, men and women, soul and body, matter and consciousness, good and evil, truth and error, guidance and misguidance, philosophy and metaphysics, theology and philosophy, symbol and history, myth and fact and the like appear as complementary polarities rather than as opposites as would follow from his nondualism which means transcendence of binaries or unification of polarities. In fact his logic is not the Aristotelian logic of either/or but the Eastern logic of polarities. The problems of dualist philosophies and theologies are dissolved in the grand Unity of Being, the vision of the One which is coincidentia oppositorum. The Akbarian perspective becomes inclusive because it is based on intellectual intuition which synthesizes rather than analyzes, and thus becomes universal as it foregrounds supraformal, supraindividual, metaphysical and esoteric instead of the limiting exoteric theological which is anthropomorphic, individual, formal and sentiment affected. It is love/knowledge/reality/mercycentric which are all integrating or universalizing entities. It sees Reality as Beauty that everyone willingly worships (God catches most people through the net of beauty as Plato says). He advocates a sort of perspectivism which implies epistemological pluralism that vetoes totalizing narratives and allows every possible angle on infinite faced reality. He embodies the perspective of “judge not” that Jesus advocated. He appropriates the conceptions of negative divine which is the hallmark of Buddhism and positive divine which is the hallmark of Islam and Judaism. Everyone can be heard as every path is a straight path in its own way. His integral spirituality appropriates all the traditional paths to God, all the basic forms of yoga – bhaktic , jnanic and karmic.
The Akbarian perspective becomes inclusive because it is based on intellectual intuition which synthesizes rather than analyzes, and thus becomes universal as it foregrounds supraformal, supraindividual, metaphysical and esoteric instead of the limiting exoteric theological which is anthropomorphic, individual, formal and sentiment affected. It is love/knowledge/reality/mercycentric which are all integrating or universalizing entities. It sees Reality as Beauty that everyone willingly worships (God catches most people through the net of beauty as Plato says). He advocates a sort of perspectivism which implies epistemological pluralism that vetoes totalizing narratives and allows every possible angle on infinite faced reality. He embodies the perspective of “judge not” that Jesus advocated. He appropriates the conceptions of negative divine which is the hallmark of Buddhism and positive divine which is the hallmark of Islam and Judaism. Everyone can be heard as every path is a straight path in its own way. His integral spirituality appropriates all the traditional paths to God, all the basic forms of yoga – bhaktic , jnanic and karmic.
He speaks for all men – nay for all creatures – as they stand as he is an “unlimited mercifier.” He vindicates man qua man without feeling any need to qualify him with this or that attributes or predicate as he sees God vindicated and His plan being worked out this very moment by everyone. Addas aptly states the Akbarian view:

 Because all men worship God whether they know it or not, because it is the Sigh of the Merciful who has brought them into existence, because each of them bears within him the imprint of one of the infinitely multiple Faces of the One, it is to eternal bliss that they have been and are being guided from the beginning of eternity. (Addas 1993: 293)

Ibn ‘Arabî  gives the most universal definition of Muhammadan where this becomes
not a designation of a particular historical community but the very name of universality and perfection. It is the name of a station, theoretically available to everyone, attainable to the select few who travel on and on, perfectly realizing all stations until he arrives at the station of no station in which one has nothing of one’s own and therefore mirrors the Real most perfectly and is not defined by any particular divine name or attribute but brings together all standpoints or stations (Twinch 2004).
His universalism is also seen in his view of man as an end rather than a means to an end and that explains his statement in the Fusūs which cuts at the root of all ideologies that justify killing in ideological battles (Jihad is primarily in self defence and against oppressors of all kinds without regard to time or place or creed of the oppressor). He says: “The preservation of the human species should have a much greater importance than religious bigotry, with its consequent destruction of human souls, even when it is for the sake of God and the maintenance of the law.” This is because killing man is to cut off manifestation of God in him and his future descendents. This doesn’t take away the right to defend oneself against those who unjustly wish to cut this manifestation.
Approaching from the gnostic rather than the voluntaristic perspective the Akbarian “mysticism of infinity” shows how in our denial of truth we nonetheless affirm it – a curved path too is a straight path (more precisely we don’t need to travel at all on any path, to think of taking the straight path is to wrongly imagine a distance between the Real and its “children” which we are) – we are always equally close/distant from the center called God/Reality. All things are on the straight path upon even if it deviates for, as Ibn 'Arabī says in the Futūhāt: “… curvature is straight in reality, like the curvature of a bow since the straightness which is desired from it is curvature … and all movement and rest in existence is divine because it is in the hand of the Real(Futūhāt II, 563). Akbarian views converge with such conceptions as Jaina theory of Syadvada and postmodern distrust of metanarratives and system-making and deconstruction of pseudo-absolutes and centrisms as he formulates his notion of hairah and personal lord and ultimate mysteriousness and unknowabilty/inaccesibility at a rational-empirical plane of the Essence of which everything is the manifestation or symbol. This is a vision of spiritual democracy too profound to be assimilated for even the most catholic and tolerant of theologies. He ingenious reinterpretation of key terms of exclusion such as kafir, fajir, zalim shows his catholicity. Even Satan is ultimately no outsider. How can there be any exclusion or marginalization in a perspective of complete nondualism Adopting basically metaphysical instead of religious perspective allows him to transcend dogmatic exclusivism that has traditionally been associated with religious perspective and in fact all exclusivism based on anything less than Absolute and there is nothing which is Absolute. With him the question is of man and his happiness or felicity and traditional religion, if properly read, is a means to that end rather than an end in itself in the name of which men could be divided or killed. His concerns are basically existential and thus universal to which everyone could relate. He submits to Truth only (that is his definition of a Muslim) and Truth is his only God, much in the manner of Gandhi who emphasized the Vedantic equation of Sat with Brahman. He finds Truth/ Reality of the substance of Joy and one with man and that is the good news he brings to the despairing nihilistic world. He has ultimately no dogmas to preach except openness to the reality without any imposition from conjectural self or mind. He brings the glad tidings that the world is indeed our home or we are the world and we are loved and Love is the be all and end all of all existence, all endeavors.  The Real is, it can’t and needn’t be found or searched – rather it finds us. Wherever one turns there is the face of God as the Quran puts it and Ibn ‘Arabî reiterates time and again. Realizing this one becomes a flute and God the flute player. A love affair with the Real commences and one enjoys orgasm with the whole universe. This overwhelming desire for love can’t stop at any human substitute as the Tarjuman narrates.
Ibn ‘Arabî’s perfect man is open to all forms, to infinite disclosures of God which change every instant. He lives moment to moment as he is abdul waqt, the servant of the Instant. For him, as for Zen, ultimately, there is no distinction between the immediate and the ultimate and there is no goal as such, each step is the goal, each moment is the goal. A blade of grass is inwardly the Absolute. There is no particular or exclusive way to salvation because all ways are already blessed. There is no need of salvation because all alienation or bondage is really illusory. All are saved; all are embraced by God because none has ever left God or the Garden of Eden except in his imagination. And it is that cursed mind and imagination which is the bane of man. Man needs to be saved because he suffers from the delusion that he needs to be saved. God is loving enough (Wadud) and strong enough to overcome all resistance on the part of man and willy nilly arranges his return to Himself
Sufism and Metaethical Transcendence
Here surfaces the vital question regarding Sufi ethics. Here a few quotes from Ibn ‘Arabî, the greatest representative of wajudi Sufism, are in order to present him as a great ethical philosopher. I quote some of his maxims which speak volumes about subtlety and profundity of his ethical thought which aligns him with the great tradition of ethics represented in both Semitic and nonSemitic traditions. The following are from The Mantle of Initiation and the last two are from his Book of Spiritual Advice.
·                      Do not condemn any of those addicted to carnal appetites for their lusts; Do not urge leadership upon anyone; Do not hold down your children to serve your own interests; Take no joy in a reputation flattering to yourself spreading among the general public, even if you deserve it.
·                      Care nothing for the ignorance of him who does not know your worth; rather, it is not seemly that there be any sense of your worth even in your own eyes.
·                      Have no desire that people should listen to your speech.
·                      Be not anxious to give answer to anything displeasing said about you.
·                      Be content with [God’s] Decree not necessarily with each thing decreed, but, rather, with its Decree itself. And receive with joy whatever may come from Him.
·                      Do favors for both friend and foe, treating all alike with humility, gentleness and long-suffering.
·                      Pardon the one who has harmed you, that is, do not even defend yourself [from harm].
·                      Looking down upon the ‘ordinary people’ (al-‘awâmm) in relation to the (spiritual) ‘elite’, in the sense of comparing this particular individual with that individual—such as (comparing the famous mystic) Hasan al-Basrî with Hasan ibn Hâni’ (the scandalous poet Abû Nuwâs)—can’t be relied upon.
·                      In general, you should hold a good opinion of everyone, and your heart should be at peace with them.
The following famous passage is a particularly detailed and important expression of traditional Sufi understanding which is also the central message of all integral traditions as Coomaraswamy and other masters of traditions formulate it. Here is the basis for ethics on which all traditions are united i.e., transcendence of lower self to subsist in the divine self. Here is his formulation of the theory and objective of mystical discipline. Here is also a manifesto for coexistence of traditions or plurality of modes of experiencing or relating to the divine.
Now you must know that if a human being (al-insān) renounces their (own personal) aims, takes a loathing to their animal self (nafs) and instead prefers their Sustainer/Teacher (rabb), then the Real will give (that human being) a form of divine guidance in exchange for the form of their carnal self... so that they walk in garments of Light. And (this form) is the sharī‘a of their prophet and the Message of their messenger. Thus that (human being) receives from their Lord what contains their happiness – and some people see (this divine guidance) in the form of their prophet, while some see it in the form of their (spiritual) state.

Ibn ‘Arabî says in The Kernel of the KernelYou will be all when you make nothing of yourself.” This is the golden rule that allows to know all truths and achieve all perfections and absolute certainty. Modern man, especially the academician, the philosopher of religion, the phenomenologist is more interested in speculation about Truth or God or neutral  “objective” idle inquiry than without being prepared to sell everything including the dearest self, as Jesus would say, or make nothing of himself for the sake of Truth. That explains why there is so much knowledge and so little wisdom today and why he is farther from God and nearer to dust. It is only by becoming nothing, by absolute detachment or poverty of spirit that one can attain the central point, the still centre of existence where lasting peace and felicity lie. The Friend doesn’t tolerate duality as Ibn ‘Arabî reminds us and comes to live in the sanctuary of a perfectly polished mirror of the heart.
      However it must be noted that Sufism also speaks for the sage, the perfect man, the man of the moment (ibn-ul waqt) who is characterized by innocence of becoming and transcendence of good and evil and perfect spontaneity of which Zen and Taoism so emphatically speak and is not guilty of the modern heresy of moralism. Postmodern probematization of ethics and modern scientific discoveries implicating relativism of morals can’t problematize Akbarian Sufi position as he too, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, speaks from the high mountains of the Spirit which transcends all actions, good or evil. There is no such thing as virtue and sin (and thus moral evil) at the deepest level. Moral evil appears so from the perspective of law only which is not necessarily the same thing at the plane of haqiqah. God is beyond good and evil and so is the sage. Transcendence of good/evil dualism is a thesis shared by traditional mystical figures. Nietzsche’s superman, as Coomaraswamy points out, exemplifies this mystical thesis rather than any heterodox conception. In fact modern relativism poses hardly a problem in Ibn ‘Arabî ’s perspective and it is subsumed in the higher absolutist view of Sufism without denying its (relative) truth at a certain plane. In fact metaphysical-esoteric perspective of Ibn ‘Arabî  distinguishes itself from all kinds of moralisms and inadequate absolutisms (based on absolutizing something less than the Absolute) and ideologies to which modernity has succumbed and postmodernism has questioned.
      The issue of sage’s or Sufi’s being beyond good and evil (metaethical transcendence) has been misunderstood by its critics as implying rejection of law and ethics while as the fact is that mystics alone in the history of religion have shown exemplary moral character as they have transcended the desiring self  or nafsi amara which incites one to evil. Only good comes from the mystic because he has transcended the plane of mind, of desiring self which chooses and is caught up in the net of time or desires. His hands have become God’s hands and God acts through him, so to speak.  The binary of time and Eternity too is transcended as one term of the binary (time) though acknowledged at its own level is nevertheless transcended “Eternal and temporal are not separate from one another/For in that Being this non-existent has its being.”  The Sufis place is placeless and his trace traceless.  So what can you say of him.  “When contemplation is firmly established, there is no difference between this world and the next” as Hujwiri says (Perry, 1979).The Sufi’s tongue flaggeth after irfan.  As Rumi says, “Be silent that the lord who gave thee language may speak” (Perry, 1979).  Bistami has made similar point “The furthest from God among the devotees are those who speak the most of him” (Perry, 1979). The concept of negative divine in mysticism is expression of the fact that Existence refuses to be demystified.  God or existence can't be known.  Thus we see Sufism transcending postmodern position while appropriating its critique of philosophy, reason and the like.  It sees God in an age where conventional theology knows nothing of Him and postmodern theology declares him dead.  Sufism could be never be so relevant as now when finality of interpretation, intolerance, exclusivism, dogmatism, fundamentalisms and totalizing metanarratives has plagued the world.
       Animal symbolism of Sufism – the term Sufi is most probably derived from suuf meaning wool  throws light on the issue of ethics of Sufism. The question is why Sufis used to wear woolen robes. I quote modern mystic’s explanation of the symbolism. “The symbolism is that wool is the garb of the animals and a Sufi has to become as innocent as an animal. The Sufi has to attain to a primal innocence... He is in tune with existence as deeply as any animal. He has dropped all kinds of philosophies, he carries no conceptualizations in his mind, his mind is without content. He is, but he is no more in the mind. To be without mind—that is the meaning of woolen robe. To be like innocent animals, not to know what is good & what is bad …. & then the highest good arises, the ‘summum bonum’…The animal doesn’t choose. Whatsoever is, is. The animal simply accepts it; its acceptance is total. It knows no choice. So does a Sufi. A Sufi knows no choice. He is choicelessly aware. Whatsoever happens he accepts as a gift, as a God-given thing. Who is he to choose? He doesn’t trust his mind, he trusts in the universal mind” (Osho, 1999:12). “(Animal) has nothing & yet will find great peace, silence, joy, celebration” (Osho, 1999: 14). By asserting animal symbolism Sufi declares that he is not doer on his own record (Osho, 1999: 14).
Metaphysical-esoteric perspective of Sufis like Ibn ‘Arabî  distinguishes itself from all kinds of moralisms and inadequate absolutisms (based on absolutizing something less than the Absolute) and ideologies to which modernity has succumbed and postmodernism has questioned. For Ibn Arabi human evaluations and categories of good and evil are purely arbitrary and based on self interest. They are projections based on anthropocentricism. The revealed law designates as evil something which is nevertheless approved by the more primordial Divine Will. Here Ibn ‘Arabî’s position converges with Spinoza’s view and easily appropriates various arguments for ethical relativism. Everything, every creature, is under the tuition and influence of divine decree. Everything happens in accordance with archetypal constitution or possibilities. God’s Goodness can’t be affected by what is taken to be evil in the creation which is acquired by the things/individuals as per their preparedness. Like Eckhart he provides one of the most convincing formulations of theodicy which resists standard modern critiques as he approaches the issue metaphysically and it is primarily at a theological plane that the problem arises.

God’s Viewpoint
Sufism sees in the development of what we may call as Divine Perspective for dissolving the problems arising at human plane. What exactly is developing God’s viewpoint that solves the problems that anthropocentric viewpoint raises? What does it mean in practice to see the world from non-egoic viewpoint. Rajneesh , though not a very reliable authority generally, has a fine knack of lucid presentation of Sufi and mystical position on many places. To quote him: 

At night, when the sky is filled with stars, do not think about them but see them. And when the waves dance on the vast expanse of the ocean, do not think about them but see them. And when a bud is opening into a blossom see it, just see it. When there is no thought but only seeing, a great secret is revealed and access is gained through the door of nature into that mystery which is God. Nature is nothing more than a veil over God, and only those who know how to lift that veil become familiar with the truth of life (Osho, 1994).

The  Sufi is the aarif who sees with the eye of certainty.  As the realm of time and thought is transcended only pure perception, pure awareness, awareness of what is  remains.  Infinite appears, Unknown dawns.

Sufism and Affirmative Transcendence
Most of the traditional religions, especially in their exoteric formulations, for reasons quite understandable, have taken the negative view of the world. They do not see the world as an instrument of arriving at the soteriological goal but as an impediment. The negative view concerning materiality leads to the development of various means, both the conceptual and practical for transcending the given, that which has name and form. It is Tantricism among the Indian religious traditions and Islam amongst the Semitic religions that have, however, taken a quite affirmative view of world and see it as an instrument of arriving at the final goal. They see it as a support for contemplation. The body is not seen as a burden that has somehow to be thrown of impure or illusory but as something fashioned by God, as a seat, a vehicle and medium for spirit. Islamic-Tantric ontology situates itself the ascetic negative ontology of certain other traditions which thinks that material substances, including the body can never enable one to have the experience of eternal bliss which is gained through the process of negation. In Islam all pleasurable experiences are celebrated as gifts from heaven. Islam rejects traditional soul-body dualism and takes the material world as symbol (ayat) of God. Purusa-Prakiti dualism seen in Sankhya-yoga is challenged by Tantricism. Islam sees the world as charged with the grandeur of God. It only asks to see everything temporal in the light of Eternity, with the eyes of God or what is called as being a witness. Choiceless awareness is what seeing with the aarif’s eyes is. Zikr is geared towards developing that contemplative vision. Inward turning that Sufism cultivates is not opposed to lawful enjoyment of senses. Detachment or poverty – the virtue emphasized by Islam is not identical with renunciation and shutting of senses. For Islam Muhammad symbolizes the positivity of the world of manifestation. Muslims are enjoined to bless the prophet and that means blessing the existence. Tawhid understood metaphysically implies oneness of existence. The whole world is an enchanted grarden, a reflection of the Edence Garden, a veritable sanctuary, a mosque, a theophany. It is God’s visible face (az-Zahir). This world is a means to cultivate the other world as a prophetic tradition (Ad-dunya-u-manzraul  akhira) testifies. Islam consecrates the world of matter rather than dismisses it as illusory or seductive temptress. Islam, like Tantrism does not see any contradiction between the pleasures of the body and the soteric liberation Islam believes that Eternity can be won here and now and takes a very affirmative view of time. God is smiling in every flower. For Islam the world unveils God. Things are metaphysically transparent. The contemplative, the gnostic (the term is here used in the primordial and non-sectarian sense) seeing with the eyes of God, sees the essences. The noumenal world wears the garments of the phenomenal. For the sage every flower is metaphysically the proof of the infinite as Schuon says. The Buddhist declaration samsara is nirvana is taken to its logical development by Tantrism. Islam too affirms this assertion. Tantric celebration of the world of matter reflects the metaphysical view that the world is the extension (Prasara) or emission (visarga) of the Absolute. The world is real being grounded in the Absolute. Islam, like Saivism and Tantrism, forgrounds positive divine unlike Hinduism and Buddhism. Allah’s personal dimension is much foregrounded in the Quran. All this has direct consequence in affirmation of human individuality. Dynamism inherent in the Islamic conception of deity is reflected also in Islam’s eulogization of change as sign of God. Islam sees time as a moving image of Eternity of God. Like Tantrism which interprets the non-dual Absolute in terms of I-consciousness Islamic theism looks at Reality in personal terms. Sufism, even though sharing a Unitarian (or monistic) metaphysics has produced intensely devotional poetry that takes God as a Person, the Beloved with whom the over communes. Sufi and Tantric absolutisms are theistic because the Absolute is predicated with such powers as will, knowledge and action. Islamic and Tantric theisms find best expression in their idea of liberation. They do not look at liberation as an escape from life in the world. “I” consciousness expresses itself through its energetic powers, in the form of the subject, means of experience and the object of experience at all the levels of existence. Saivism and Tantrism have taken bipolar view of the Absolute the couple of Siva and Sakti. The dynamic aspect implies an affirmative view of the world.
Islamic aesthetics based and God’s beauty and Sufi celebration of nature of earthy symbols of the Beloved, the haunting music of Sufi verse and beauty of Islamic architecture all are the feast of senses Islamic metaphysics gives important place to God as Jameel (Beautiful). Sufis have been criticized for venerating earthly beauty of women and young boys. Ibn Arabi’s case had caused a scandal. From the Sufi metaphysical viewpoint God is the real enjoyer of all experience. He is the only Beauty that there is. He is Bliss. The vision of God is a kind of highest aesthetic pleasure so Sufis take almost a Tantric view of pleasure (bhoga). The Quran records a statement “who has forbidden the good things of the world?” Islam has not forbidden meat and rejected asceticism. ‘Affirmative transcendence” is thus as characteristic of Islam as it is a Saivism, especially Tantric Saivism. Islam, like Tantrism, true to its Unitarian metaphysics, does not maintain dualism of the sacred and the profane, between the temporal and the eternal, between God and the world. It is due to impure dualistic perception or lack of spiritual knowledge that differentiation as opposites are experienced at the empirical level. Every phenomenal entity is the sacred icon of the Absolute. Nothing is really unlawful for the one who has transcended the dichotomy of poison and sugar as Rumi has said. A realized person is no longer under any kind of bondage. He discovers law within and does not feel it as being imposed from without as Iqbal has also noted (Iqbal, 1997).
Religion asks man to be natural, to be true to his nature, to be ordinary and as Zen Buddhism puts it “samsara is nirvana.” Islam repeatedly emphasizes its natural – all too natural character. The Sage – in Taoism is above all the wholly natural man. The aim of the Sage is to be in harmony with his own nature for through this harmony comes harmony with men and this harmony is itself the reflection of harmony with God. The aim of spiritual man is to contemplate nature and become one with it, to become ‘natural.’ Religion is innocence of becoming. Religion intends to de-alienate man, to help him to be himself. God has to be existentially experienced, discovered within the depth of our being or self. There is no beyond, no remote realm of being or no otherworldly destination, in the pursuit of which one is asked to leave this world. “We live and move and have our being in God” as St. Paul put it. Heaven is won only in and through this world. This world is the ground or soil on which the tree of hereafter grows. Nirvana must be won here, every moment. God has to be remembered with every breath. Nothing is profane, all is holy ground. The following words of Iqbal show this “secular” theological spirit of all true religion “There is no such thing as a profane world. All this immensity of matter constitutes a scope for the self-realization of spirit. All is holy ground…… The spirit finds its opportunities in the natural, the material, the secular. All that is secular is, therefore sacred in the roots of its being”(Iqbal, 1997:123).
Ibn ‘Arabî strongly maintains inseparability of the corporeal and the spiritual in the human being. For him the world of matter is not profane or cursed as it as it is the “Breath of the Compassionate,” an effect of divine mercy on the inexistent things. It is essential to the realization of Spirit.  Deriving everything by applying first principles or seeing them as an expression of divine names and attributes he is logically is led to celebrate the body at both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels and argues that the Universal Body is the first determinant of cosmic principles of arithmetic, geometry, and music. It is in fact the matrix for all corporeal entities in the known universe. He champions the view of affirmative transcendence. Catering to rights of both the individual and the society, contemplation and action he interprets retreat (khalwa) which asceticism and monasticism in different traditions advocates in such a way that it becomes quite compatible with active social or worldly life or jalwat which is emphasized by world-affirming socially conscious traditions such as Islamic and Chinese traditions. His view of sexuality and women also illustrate his view of affirmative transcendence. He sees in sexual union a prototype of the experience of fana though he insists that what is required is to witness God in woman, which he sees as the grandest and the most complete contemplation, because it is a witnessing of God as actor and acted-upon simultaneously (Fusūs). Sexual union is a form of contemplation, a foretaste of paradise as Ghazali also believed, and if carried with full awareness can lead to higher states of consciousness, an assertion that finds full expression in Tantricism and Kashmir Shaivism. The body is a theophany and thus the temple of God. Passion and desire are ultimately from God and directed to Him. There is nothing profane in itself. All actions are ultimately authored by God and thus can’t be evil in themselves.
The world of forms or manifestation is not a vain show; it is real and expresses a mode of Divine Life. Every event is meaningful and full of portents for the discerning people. Nothing is gratuitous. All so-called things are places of theophany rather than distractions which veil God. Everything can impart knowledge. So what room is there for escaping? And where shall one escape as wherever we turn there is God? One can flee to God only. All things can be enjoyed in God as for Eckhart.
According to Ibn ‘Arabî a Sufi ideally goes to God from creation and comes back to creation with God. There are lures of samadhis or ecstasies that pull man back from creation but ideally a Sufi makes whole life a form of yoga, an experience of union with God as Aurobindo also would characterize his own integral spirituality.
Ibn Arabi affirms ceaseless becoming and change and says in his Kitâb al-isfâr 'an natâ'ij al-asfâr that there is no escape from ceaseless travel in all the worlds. The unity of the Real implies that that it is one and unique in its every act; the notion of divine infinity or All-Possibility implies that there is no monotony and no repetition in creation. This implies endless creativity and dynamism and subsumes much that is positive in process philosophies. The Akbarian God never ceases creating/manifesting even though He is also the still center of existence. Though Being centred he sees only becoming the lot of man and brings together the insights of two divergent streams of philosophical thought – those of Parmenedies and Hereclites. Ibn ‘Arabî ’s view of history though not clearly or explicitly formulated would appropriate fundamental insights of Hegel regarding opportuneness of everything at a particular movement and ultimate teleological heavenward (in the annals of the Spirit) movement of history. In fact Hegel had read something of Rumi and praised it very much and Ibn ‘Arabî  and Rumi share much between them – Ibn ‘Arabî  is largely Rumi in prose.
Ibn ‘Arabî ’s comment on the prophet’s practice of retreat in a cave in his earlier life expresses his affirmative view forcefully in which he states that had the Prophet gazed on the face of God in the people from which he fled to avoid constriction he felt in their presence he would have stayed with them as he later came to know. To quote him:

But because there is no absolute separation between states, not even ultimately between God and creation, the return to society (return to creation) is merely a vertical descent after an ascent to God. Thus, for him whom God has given understanding, retreat and society (khalwa and jalwa) are the same. Rather, it may be that society is more complete for a person and greater in benefit, since through it at every instant once increases in knowledge of God.

For Ibn ‘Arabî, there is no visible thing which is not a manifestation of God capable of imparting knowledge. All so-called things are places of theophany rather than distractions which veil God. One of the purposes of retreat, then, is witnessing the Beauty of Oneness without as well as within, so that there is not seen to be this separation, this differentiation, between within and without. Wherever you turn, there is the Beauty of His face.
Ibn ‘Arabî   strongly insists on the importance of this "world" as an essential aspect of human perfection and the essential ground of man's superiority to the purely spiritual beings. He strongly contrasts the lower, "immature" state of those "Knowers" ('arifun) who deny the reality of this world, and the station of the warithun (the true "heirs" of the prophets) who are always aware of God's theophanic Presence throughout this world. Zen and “this worldly” Islam have strongly emphasized the sacred character of this world. Samsara is indeed nirvana, heaven is indeed here on earth, and eternity is indeed here and now. But all these things are a matter of personal realization; only the one who has reached the other shore, who has been vouchsafed the vision of God can say so and not the one who is yet caught in the world of time and senses. Ibn ‘Arabî asserts that this is the best possible world, a thesis made famous by Ghazali and later Leibnitz. In fact this easily follows from his understanding of divine names. The world is the expression of divine generosity and mercy. If the world were not the best it would entail an absurd proposition that God is ungenerous. If this world is gratuitous, and shows no signs of wisdom of the Designer as evolutionary perspective asserts then all attempts to wish it better and care for it are ultimately doomed on metaphysical grounds. There can be no lasting peace, order and equilibrium on earth unless we find and relate to these things in heaven. The Chinese express this notion very well and in fact it is found in other traditions. And it is Ibn ‘Arabî  who gives such an idea firm metaphysical anchorage.
Ibn ‘Arabî sees God only (who alone is ultimately real for him) and therefore he, like other great mystics, celebrates the holiness and wholeness of life and his is not a sin-centred perspective. The lover of the Real sees neither sin nor guilt, neither distance or real alienation from the Real nor damnation for those who have gone astray – in fact there is no going astray ultimately, no slackening of God’s control. Nothing needs to be done to reach God, just awakening from the sleep of inattention or heedlessness. The world is the playground of God’s attributes and it is human, all-too-human weakness to evaluate in anthropocentric and moral terms. The attributes of majesty are not to be loathed at. Iblis is a friend in disguise as for Hallaj and the leader of the lovers as for Rumi. For Ibn ‘Arabî  God’s trickery (makr) is educative. What we ordinarily call evil and sin is not so at root or in the larger framework of divinely willed action. The sage is situated beyond good and evil. But all this doesn’t mean he makes a joke of traditional eschatology and commandments and is blind to the painful reality of suffering here and hereafter. His genius lies in respecting the traditional understanding of these things which make religion a serious thing, a matter of life and death but at the same time pleading for a deeper understanding at the plane of haqiqah where theological or religious notions get a metaphysical translation and become quite comprehensible.

Philosophy as Spiritual Discipline
Philosophy as an abstract philosophical discourse based on rationalistic scientific method and its methodically obtained “truths” is what Sufi thinkers like Ibn ‘Arabî  often critique. Philosophy implies for all of the ancients a moral conformity to wisdom: only he is wise, sophos, who lives wisely as Schuon notes (8:136). Philosophy in the traditional Orphic-Pythagorean sense is wisdom and love combined in a moral and intellectual purification in order to reach the “likeness to god.” It is contemplation of Beauty and Good. This is attainable by gnosis. By philosophizing ancients meant “both noetic activity and spiritual practice” and if philosophy is the knowledge of the nature of things as for Heraclites or the knowledge of the Changeless and of the Ideas as for Plato or the knowledge of first causes and principles, together with the sciences that are derived from them as for Aristotle and sages alone can be true philosophers as oriental traditions generally maintain then Ibn ‘Arabî  qualifies as one of the greatest philosophers of history. The Greek word nous covers both spirit and intellect (intellectus, ‘aql) of Medieval Christian and Islamic lexicon. Platonic philosophy, understood as a spiritual and contemplative way of life leading to illumination or enlightenment; an intellectual discipline based on intellection culminating in union (henosis) with ideal Forms is what Ibn Arabi relates with instead of more rationalistic Aristotelian view or extremely narrow free speculative inquiry and rationalism of moderns. Philosophy, understood in the above sense of the term, has ever been alive and is not dead pace Derrida and Rorty. It is mysticism and traditional metaphysics that can come to the rescue of philosophy in the postmetaphysical postmodern age and reclaim for it its lost dignity and sanctity attacked by science inspired positivism and linguistic turn in philosophy. Akbarian understanding of philosophy calls for revival even if he has often been perceived as a critic of philosophy rather than a contributor to it. It can’t be denied that he had not very seriously read philosophers and was not even much interested in reading them. But the central role of Logos doctrine in his scheme, his great respect for intelligence/Intellect, his conceding that if properly pursued by employing the faculty of imagination and instrument of heart as well with reason – in short reason illumined by Intellect – philosophy can hit the right target all imply that he can be placed in the history of philosophy. Of course Western paradigm in philosophy can’t accommodate him as a philosopher in his own right because of its own prior commitment to exclusive rational inquiry alone that needs no dabbling with polishing the mirror with the help of virtues as the normative mode of philosophizing. For oriental traditions western rationalistic philosophy will hardly qualify as a philosophy proper and if we judge the tree by the fruits it appears that it indeed is the case. Western philosophy having severed its ties with the pursuit of wisdom and substituted thought for intellection has been reduced to linguistic analysis and analysis of concepts and handmaiden of science and in fact is claimed to be dead by many postmoderns.
For Ibn ‘Arabî modern rationalistic philosophy pursued in secular contexts and for mundane pursuits is not the philosophy proper of which prophets are the teachers as the Quran says. The Prophet teaches hikmah among other things according to the Quran (65:2). Ibn ‘Arabî stood for the wisdom of the prophets as his most famous book shows. Ibn ‘Arabî  expressed by means of reason certainties “seen” or “lived” by the immanent Intellect, as did the best of Greeks. (Uzdavinys:138)  Cracks, crises and emasculations of the discipline of philosophy in the modern West could have been avoided if the West had not opted for Latin Averrorism and Cartesian rationalism and consequent dualisms and irresolvable problems that still haunt its epistemology and other areas like ontology. Philosophy as a pathway to communion with God is what Orphic-Phyhtagorean-Platonic tradition upheld and is not merely a rational pursuit for it. Ibn ‘Arabî  agrees. The “Orphic”-Indian conception of philosopher as one who seeks release from the wheel of cyclical term concur with both the vision of perennialists and escapes postmodern critiques. Logos of which Ibn ‘Arabî  speaks figures in Plato, Neoplatonism and the perennialists is not renderable exclusively as reason or discursive reasoning (dianoia). That has been scrutinized by intutionists and postmodernists

Seeing God Everywhere
There is nothing mystifying about the fundamentals of Sufi theory and practice. Practice of spirituality is clearly formulated. There is no room for complaints about God’s remoteness. Metaphysically speaking to live truly is to live in God as God is Life, the Larger Life. The life of love is the life divine. God is love and for Sufis one could well say that love is God. The experience of love, of beauty, of goodness are experiences of God and for a gnostic all experiences are experiences of God. The finite can’t be outside the Divine Infinitude. So the world is necessarily in God or God’s visible Face. As the Quran says God is both the Manifest (form) and the Hidden (essence). As Ibn Arabi foregrounds the point:
If we gaze, it is upon Him; if we use our intelligence, it is towards Him; if we reflect, it is upon Him; if we know it is Him. For it is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the invisible and the visible. The whole world prays to Him, prostrates itself before Him and glorifies His praise; tongues speak of Him, hearts are enraptured by love for Him, minds are bewildered in Him (Ibn Arabi, 1972, 449-50).
Seeking for metaphysical abstractions, airy nothings, heavens out there is despised by Sufism. The world is the visible face of God. The objects are not mere objects; they are mysterious, partaking of the mystery of Existence or God. Everything is charged with the grandeur of God. Everything, seen with the eyes of a mystic, is sacred, the Infinite. Wherever we turn, there is the Face of God. The mystic sees the essences, the world of ideas or archetypes. He sees through God’s eyes and that is why everything appears as it really is, Infinite. The Beloved is expressing in countless forms. The statement that God is exalted means that “the whole existence is exalted, because god is not a person but another name for the totality of existence” (Osho, 2001: 469). As Osho says: “The beloved is not a person: the beloved is life itself…Think of God in all this manifestation! (Osho, 1981:175). “The divine is pure being, hence it is indescribable. God is the pure essence of this existence. An image of a flower can be made, but how can you make an imager of your fragrance….God is the fragrance of existence” (Osho, 1953:319).“God is existence. He is not beyond it; he is hidden in it. He is one with it” (Osho, 1953:178).
Islamic  God is both transcendent and immanent. But most students and critics of Islam have overemphasized God’s transcendence at the cost of His immanence. It is Sufism that has rightly understood and emphasized both the aspects. God is the Light of the world as the Quran says. One could say with the mystics of Islam that God is the essence of all existents. He sustains everything. Everything is centred in God. God is al-Muhit, the all pervading Environment. The world is charged with the grandeur of God. Space and time are interpretations “that thought puts on the creative activity of God” (Iqbal, 1997:122). Matter is “spirit in space-time reference”(Iqbal,1997:122). Islam rejects all dualism – dualisms of body-soul, here-hereafter, temporal-eternal, sacred-profane, immanence-transcendence etc. Islam’s antiidolatrous genius deconstructs all “structuralist” hierarchical dualisms.  The Sufi expresses this most emphatically when he sees nothing but God everywhere.  All is naught that isn’t God. In that vision all dualisms, including the dualism of good and evil are transcended.  Sufism that pertains to the inner core of religion refuses to classify, divide and construct.  It respects no binary oppositions as it doesn’t privilege one term over the other.  For it all is One. The binaries arise if we divide the indivisible Oneness of Reality.  A Sufi rejects this division on a priori grounds.  He sees nothing but God everywhere.  The binaries of sinner and saint, good and evil too are transcended. 
Combining the divergent conception of tanzih (incomparability, transcendence) and tashbih (resemblance, immanence) which had resulted in fierce controversies in Muslim history by means of the unitary consciousness of the heart which possesses the binoculer vision of reason and imagination he holds that whereas the divine Essence is absolutely unknowable, the cosmos as a whole is the locus of manifestation of all God's attributes. This means that either of the terms in the binaries of God/creation, transcendence/immanence, Essence/attributes, Lord/servant, Infinite/finite etc. can’t be isolated/absolutized and both are inextricably woven and for an aarif (knower/jnani) ultimately nondifferent or one. The tool of conceptual intellect which is condemned to posit dualities and think in binaries must be transcended if we are to experience Reality. Theology/philosophy employing reason as the tool in understanding the things can only deal with mental constructs while the Reality in its depth and wholeness escapes them. The mystic rather than the theologian and the metaphysician (understood as intellectual rather than rational knowledge that transcends subject-object duality and operates with Intellect rather than reason and seeks realization rather than conceptualization of truth) rather than the philosopher is really competent to “understand” or see reality. The philosopher must bow before the Gnostic as Ibn ‘Arabî tells us in one allegorical narrative and while recounting his encounter with Ibn Rushd. Our hearts rather than our minds give us access to reality. Life is a mystery to be lived, a superabundant joy and bliss to be enjoyed rather than a logical puzzle to be rationally approached. The Real alone is and constitutes the reality of everything manifest and unmanifest and is the object of all perception, imagination and conception. Ibn ‘Arabî  is a gnostic or jnani for whom it is intelligence which saves and intellectual intuition that needs to be actualized for one’s felicity. Experiencing divinity is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly as ordinary cognizing subject is no longer there when the Real sees itself through the mirror of cognizing subject. God alone is the witness, the knower and God is perceived by God alone. God is “attention without distraction” as Simone Weil would say. Seeing God is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. Just as there is no true being but God, so also there is no true finder or experiencer but God and nothing truly found or expereienced but God for Ibn ‘Arabî. The Real, the what is, is before every construction of it by means of conceptual thought, and it is after everything, every thinkable and imaginable entity has disappeared. He says in The Kernel of the Kernel:
He is able to show His Being either within or without; that which is in the image of everything, that which is understandable in every intellect, the meaning that is in every heart, the thing heard in every ear, the eye that sees in every eye, is Him....If He is manifest in this face he is also looking from the other.
What is needed is only receptivity, a polished mirror of the heart and God will teach it. No sterile debate on existence of God from purely theological and philosophical perspectives is needed. Ibn ‘Arabî  pleads for intellectual metaphysical perspective which alone corresponds to pure truth and gives first hand verification. His is a “positivist” approach that takes the whole of reality – not just the sensory world which is more a construction of imagination or a dream than reality for realizers of different mystical and religious traditions – as data of “experience” and employs all the faculties and not just senses and reason for evaluating the evidences.
God for Sufism, as for traditional religion and mysticism, is to be identified, in the ultimate analysis, with Life or Existence in all its depths and its mystery or transcendence, the ideal pole of man, the Infinite that grounds the finite, the Origin and the End, the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, the Hearing and the Seeing, the Light of the World and the darkness beyond light, so close yet so elusive, pure consciousness that is objectless and still unmanifest, transcendent to phenomenal world yet somehow sustaining and manifesting or expressing itself in the phenomenal world, not described by this or that when it comes to capture its mysterious ungraspable unrepresentable essence and best expressible through negations. It is what It is ("I am what I am"). Concerning it Ibn ‘Arabî writes, “There is nothing in Being/existence [wujûd] but the Divine Presence, which is His Essence, His attributes, and His acts” (Ibn Arabi, 1972, II:114). For him the Absolute determined or limited by Its own Forms is in all beings and constitutes their divine Face for there is nothing other than It, the only One. This is immanence ("tashbîh"). The nondelimited Absolute is only for the Absolute (His Face is only for Him to witness). This is transcendence ("tanzîh"). 
Experiencing God for Sufis like Ibn Arabi is to be aware, choicelessly aware, vulnerable, open to the Real, the non-self, the other, the cosmos or what is, to appropriate one modern mystic’s phrase. It is “attention without distraction” as Simone Weil would have it. It is becoming intensely conscious of everyday happenings. It is seeing the world with wide open eyes after cleansing the doors of perception so that the veils are lifted and one sees everything as it, Infinite, a locus of divine tajalliyat or epiphanies. The vision that is not egocentric but simply a pure witnessing, a pure observance where no desire is projected into the observed, a perception unhindered by conceptual construction of the mind or desires as the Zen mystics especially emphasize, is experiencing God. It isn’t achieved; it happens. Rather it is. The Real – Ibn ‘Arabî’s designation for the Absolute, is and alone is and constitutes the reality of everything manifest and unmanifest is the object of all perception, imagination and conception. Ibn ‘Arabî is a jnani for whom it is intelligence which saves and intellectual intuition that needs to be actualized for one’s felicity. Experiencing divinity is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly as ordinary cognizing subject is no longer there when the real sees the Real. God alone is the witness, the knower and God is perceived by God alone. Seeing God is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. It is pure knowing as distinguished from ordinary knowledge that presupposes the subject-object or knower-known duality. It is seeing with a still mind. Zikr helps to achieve such a cleansing of perception and thus vision without ego. It is simply seeing things as they are and not as they appear to manipulating analytical desiring mind. It is what traditions call as seeing through God’s eyes or disinterested seeing.
Experiencing God or deliverance for Sufism is not a goal in future, a search for some metaphysical abstraction, a super terrestrial Being out there,  an experience radically distinct from other “ordinary” experiences, a secret journey or adventure into the next world. It is simply conscious experiencing of the world of phenomena. The vision that is not egocentric but simply a pure witnessing, a pure observance where no desire is projected into the observed, a perception unhindered by conceptual construction of the mind or desires is experiencing God. It isn’t achieved; it happens. Rather it is. It is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly. It is not a state, a special ecstatic state distinguishable from the normal conscious state. It is not the revelation from the supernatural world. The mystic is extraordinarily ordinary person. Enlightenment is dropping of all seeking, all future oriented enterprises. It is simply to be as one is in pristine innocence. It is just to be oneself without all conditionings. The Real alone is and constitutes the reality of everything manifest and unmanifest is the object of all perception, imagination and conception. Ibn ‘Arabî  is a jnani for whom it is intelligence which saves and intellectual intuition that needs to be actualized for one’s felicity. Experiencing divinity is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly as ordinary cognizing subject is no longer there when the Real sees itself through the mirror of cognizing subject. God alone is the witness, the knower and God is perceived by God alone. Seeing God is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. It is pure knowing as distinguished from ordinary knowledge that presupposes the subject-object or knower-known duality. Fleeing to God (through the discipline of senses and transcendence of desiring self) for Ibn ‘Arabî  is merely a way of expressing the flight from ignorance to knowledge and is not a flight away from one thing towards another, since there is nothing in existence but God.
Enlightenment or vision of God is the understanding that the Real alone is and there is no distance between us and It. We are already there in the lap of God – we have never been away and cannot be away from It. God has never been missed. We have forgotten or fallen asleep but this doesn’t alter the fact that God is our very being, our inmost reality. Man is inwardly God and outwardly a creature according to Ibn ‘Arabî. The Spirit is divine and the body is from the clay. God is Reality. The world is God’s visible face. The real, the obvious, that which is always with us, has been always with us, will always be with us, is God. God is the Isness of things, the essence of existence. He is Existence in its totality. God constitutes all pervasive Environment (al-Muhit in the Quranic parlance) in which normal man lives, moves and has his being in. Adam saw God, the essences before the Fall as the fog of passions and desires had not blurred his vision. Things are metaphysically transparent; only we need to possess the right view as the Buddha said. The experiences of love, of beauty, of goodness – all are experiences of God. For a gnostic all experiences are experiences of God. The finite can’t be outside the Divine Infinitude. As the Quran says God is both the Manifest (form) and the Hidden (essence). Ibn ‘Arabî  sees God as Indwelling Life. He defines God as Reality and thus nothing is as evident, as manifest as God and only the fool or the blind can say that there is no God. There is no need to prove God’s existence; we only need to open our eyes to the All-pervading or All-Encompassing.
Because of the fact that in this existence there is nothing but God, from which all other so-called existences are derived, the question for Ibn ‘Arabî is not  whether God is or where and how to find Him but, as Chittick says,  how can we remove the veils, that prevent us from seeing God? (Chitick, Ibn Arabi, accepted by most Sufis as the Greatest Master,  says that God is revealed in all experiences every moment and for everyone – in fact God is the Hearing and the Seeing as is often reiterated in the Quranic verse – and not just to a select few in the so-called religious experience which is Jamesian construct uncritically accepted by many modern philosophers of religion. All the roads lead to His abode as they proceed from it. God is the name of 'that which is.’ He is not something within isness, he himself is that which is. He does not possess existence; rather the very existence is in him. Essence and existence are one for Him. The following words of a modern Indian mystical thinker express Akbarian view almost perfectly:
"Does God exist?" you ask. It is not at all proper to ask a question like this because you don't even know what the word "God" means. "God" means "whole". The whole of existence itself is God. God is not a separate entity. he is not some individual, some power. What exists is God. And even this is not the proper way to say it. It is more accurate to say that existence itself is God. Even in saying "God exists" there is redundance.

Questioning the existence of God is questioning the existence of existence. The existence of all other things is obvious, but this is not the case with God. And this is because he is existence himself. The power, the energy that exists in all things may also be apparent, but this is not so with God. He himself is that power.
This is something similar to the understanding of Being as the ground of all beings in Heidegger and God as Being of being in Paul Tillich. Ibn Arabi snatches the “God-given right” to be an atheist. Atheism denies a limited conception of divinity though in itself it is based on a narrow view of Reality. But it is absurd to be an atheist if God is construed as the Essence of existence, as isness of things, as the ground of everything, as what is, as Reality.
Hence, in strictly nondualistic view of He is not sought, because the seeker himself is in Him. One can only get lost in Him. And to get lost is to attain Him. Bewilderment is the highest station and attaining the station of no station is the supreme attainment. Realizing that everything is perfect this very moment or, in Buddhist (Nagarjunian) terminology, that samsara is nirvana is realizing God.
Sufism and Sacral Perspective on the Environment

 It is generally accepted that environmental crisis hasn’t been a serious problem of traditional cultures and premodern civilizations. Tribal societies, primitive people don’t know it. Mind, reason, civilization, desires, possessions, divisions, conflicts, disequilibrium, disharmony go hand in hand. Intellect as traditionalist perennialist writers conceive it isn’t distanced from nature. It is a sort of mirror reflecting Reality. It is choicelessly aware of the flow of events. Tribal people are closest to ‘animals’ in the above defined sense of the term and that is why they possess ecological health. The animal doesn’t possess ego-consciousness and thus doesn’t look at the world as the other, as an object. He lives in the world. He is tuned to the rhythm of nature. He flows with it.
Modern man has lost the innocence of animal and that is why he is alienated. He doesn’t trust the given as God given. He can’t thank Existence for the gift of life. Animals never complain. They are reconciled with their fate. They have submitted in the real sense of the word. They can’t rebel. They don’t hoard as they are not possessive. They know nothing of greed. Animals look at nature without having any ideas, choices, wants, interests. They just delight at seeing creation. They know no exploitation of nature because they are content with what they have, with what nature has bestowed them. The ‘Sufi’ word could also have been derived from sufa which means purity and by implication transcendence. It means renunciation. One renounces and becomes a faqeer. The Sufi has to renounce all possession or at least attachment to possessions or things.
For the Sufi the Beloved is everywhere. We can see Infinity in the grain of sand. Eternity is here and now. The Garden of Eden is not in a far off country or in the next world but here. For the mystic or gnostic every tree is a Boddhi tree. Even stones have Buddha nature. The Kingdom of God is within us. What religions demand is cleansing of perception. All the prayers and meditations and japas or azkar are for this end. To live in God consciousness or to live according to Tao is a way of living in tune with the environment. Here we discuss in detail what experiencing God implies and how it relates to the environment.
 Experiencing God is experiencing world with open eyes, the eyes unburdened by the past memories or future dreams. It is like looking at the world with fresh eyes of the child. It is to experience the world without experiencer. It is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. It is pure knowing as distinguished from ordinary knowledge that presupposes the subject-object or knower-known duality. It is seeing with a still mind. Muraqaba, zikr, retreat, and fasting help to achieve such a cleansing of perception, a still mind, a vision without ego. It is simply seeing things as they are and not as they appear to manipulating analytical desiring mind. It is pure seeing or better witnessing. It is what traditions call as seeing through God’s eyes or disinterested seeing.
Sufi discipline aims at eliminating the doer and letting Existence do its will. It is the posture of surrender and trust in the action of the whole. In fact God is the only doer. It is illusion to believe that we are the real agents of action. The Sufi is a hollow bamboo, a flute on which nature plays the notes and what conflict can there be in such a case with environment. He doesn’t look at it egoistically, capitalistically. He believes more in giving than in taking. His dwellings are usually caves, forests, countrysides, or what comes closest to virgin nature. The Sufis have given voice to mute nature. For them chirping birds deliver sermons and brooks are books. Even trees are reported to have developed some sort of relationship with him. He must be content to be nothing. He must not be to let Existence speak through him, to let God play on the note of his life. The Sufi is one ‘who has arisen in the morning and doesn’t know whether he will be dead in the evening.’ He is utterly resigned to the present moment. He has no will to be worried about his state tomorrow and that is why he is perfectly at peace. He is ibn-al-waqt (the child of time) or rather for him time doesn’t exist. Not in time but out of time he lives and are executed his actions. So his relationship with nature can’t be dictated by calculating utilitarian aggrandizing morality. As the Sufi doesn’t act out of the mind and it is mind which separates man from nature and distorts his primal innocence so his actions can’t be but in tune with nature. He doesn’t flow against the stream. He is at maqami-raza which is a state of absolute submission. Not his but God’s will is done and God is the totality of existence. Transcendence of mind, thought, ideas, ego means nothing now separates a Sufi from nature, his primal or paradisiacal innocence. Sufism as love affair with the world or whole (at whatsoever terms it sets as love doesn’t negotiate but willingly surrenders as it transcends ego boundaries by very definition) means he is reconciled with the environment (environment understood in widest sense of the term). He isn’t opposed to it unlike Camus but loves it with all his heart and soul. He doesn’t mourn the fact of being born. He isn’t therefore alienated or rebellious. He delights in creation. He sings the praises of all forms as they manifest the Essence or God. All creation sings the praise of God by virtue of mere existence (which is a state of submission). He joins trees, brooks, birds, and stars in consenting to the state in which God chose him to be. He doesn’t resent. It is he who experiences innocence of becoming. He sees God everywhere, in every atom, in every leaf blade. He sings, dances in mad ecstasy because everything comes from his Beloved. He accepts every misery as a kiss from the Beloved. Raza, the station of Sufi means total acceptance. He is pleased with God as God is pleased with him. Accepting servant-hood means he consents to his creaturely status. He doesn’t want to be superman, to be God. Rather he chooses not to be at all, chooses to annihilate ego so that only God can say I am. And not he. It is extremely humility on the part of Mansur when he said, “I am the Truth.” This is because it is God who said this as Mansur himself had got annihilated in the experience of fana.
Sufism takes the Quranic statement that God is the only Doer, the creator of us and our actions to mean what other traditions imply by the notion of Non-doing, actionless action or wu wei wei. The Gita and Taoism have explicated this conception. It is an ideal mode of ecocentric action. Eliminating the doer and letting Existence do its will. It is the posture of surrender and trust in the action of the whole. In fact God is the only doer. It is illusion to believe that we are the real agents of action. A Sufi is a hollow bamboo, a flute on which nature plays the notes and what conflict can there be in such a case with environment. He doesn’t look at it egoistically, capitalistically. He believes more in giving than in taking. His dwellings are usually caves, forests, countrysides, or what comes closest to virgin nature. The Sufis have given voice to mute nature. For them chirping birds deliver sermons and brooks are books. Even trees are reported to have developed some sort of relationship with them. He must be content to be nothing. He must not be to let Existence speak through him, to let God play on the note of his life. The Sufi is one ‘who has arisen in the morning and doesn’t know whether he will be dead in the evening.’ He is utterly resigned to the present moment. He has no will to be worried about his state tomorrow and that is why he is perfectly at peace. He is ibn-al-waqt (the child of time) or rather for him time doesn’t exist. Not in time but out of time he lives. So his relationship with nature can’t be dictated by calculating utilitarian aggrandizing morality. As the Sufi doesn’t act out of the mind and it is mind which separates man from nature and distorts his primal innocence so his actions can’t be but in tune with nature. He doesn’t flow against the stream. He is at maqami-raza which is a state of absolute submission. Not his but his Heavenly Father’s will is done and God is the totality of existence. Transcendence of mind, thought, ideas, ego means nothing now separates a Sufi from nature, his primal or paradisiacal innocence. Sufism as love affair with the world or whole (at whatsoever terms it sets as love doesn’t negotiate but willingly surrenders as it transcends ego boundaries by very definition) means he is reconciled with the environment (environment understood in the widest sense of the term). He isn’t opposed to it unlike Camus but loves it with all his heart and soul. He doesn’t mourn the fact of being born. He isn’t therefore alienated or rebellious. He delights in creation. He sings the praises of all forms as they manifest the Essence or God. All creation sings the praise of God by virtue of mere existence (which is a state of submission). He joins trees, brooks, birds, and stars in consenting to the state in which God chose him to be. He doesn’t resent. It is he who experiences innocence of becoming. He sees God everywhere, in every atom, in every leaf blade. He sings, dances in mad ecstasy because everything comes from his Beloved. He accepts every misery as a kiss from the Beloved. Raza, the station of Sufi means total acceptance. He is pleased with God as God is pleased with him. Accepting servant-hood means he consents to his creaturely status. He doesn’t want to be superman, to be God. Rather he chooses not to be at all, chooses to annihilate ego so that only God can say I am. And not he. It is extreme humility on the part of al-Hallaj when he said, “I am the Truth.” This is because, as Rumi says, it is God who said this as Mansur himself had got annihilated in the experience of fana.

Sufism treats environmental crisis by keeping the sacred alive, by seeing the universe as God’s zahir. Thus numinous is restored. One can’t take lightly what expresses the immanence of God. Nature by being made dependent on supernature becomes sanctified, adorable, worthy of not only respect but also of love. As nature is not other to self, or spirit but its exteriorization or what amounts to the same as God’s manifestation or revelation, alienation disappears. One sees nothing but God or Self. Nature becomes prayerful, in need of blessing from man. The Prophet of Islam is the pole or center of existence. And blessing him in durood means blessing whole existence or life. To be is to be blessed. Man can’t be but steward if Nature and Khalfatullah in such a view. Earth belongs to God (al-a arda-lillah) not to man and thus can’t be looted, exploited indiscriminately. Man environment relationship becomes I-Thou rather than I-It and this is key to Sufi perspective on environment. Since only one or God exists and ego doesn’t so no dualism is there which is at the heart of environmental crisis. Metaphysical unity (expressed in tawhid) means Order, Balance, Harmony, Equilibrium. If we take the famous Lyn White critique of Christianity for desacralizing nature by overemphasis on divine transcendence and thus converting nature to a “mere stuff” or the realm of manifestation seriously, Sufism’s emphasis on affirmative transcendence, on God as Existence implies taking the realm of manifestation seriously as real and partaking of divinity in a way. The realm of manifestation represents the Shakti of Siva (God) and we can’t separate Siva from Shakti. Orthodox Vedantist tradition doesn’t see the metaphysical transparency of phenomenal world and tries to ignore, escape, from it or not be much concerned with its love and preservation by seeing it as illusory or not quite real or authentic expression of divine immanence. Sufism in contrast reinterprets Maya in tune with Kashmir Saivism and other affirmative thought currents resurrects the world’s reality, seeing it as God’s actual pole, His visible face.  Understanding of Maya as illusion rather than Shakti implies ignoring the metaphysical transparency of phenomenal world. Saivism-Tantrism don’t ignore the phenomenal world or escape from it. They are much concerned with its love and preservation as they don’t see it as illusory or not quite real or authentic expression of divine immanence.
Choiceless Awareness and the Sufi practice of zikr

 To be in zikr is just to be aware choicelessly aware, moment to moment aware about Existence or Reality.  God is nothing but existence, phenomenal and transcendental. “When one becomes alert one attains the Infinite.  That is what the Hindus have called the Infinite awareness or chit – utter bliss is his” (Osho, 2004:68). The Prophet’s declaration about himself that he is never asleep and is awake even while in sleep is beautifully explicated by Osho. 

The state of ghafla – unconsciousness – has to be transformed into state of zikr – remembrance …..And unless awareness becomes so deep that even while you are asleep you are aware, it isn’t of much use.  Ordinary people look alert and are asleep.  They walk on the streets, go to their jobs, do their work, come back home, have children, have a wife, grow a family and die.  And they remain in a state of ghafla, they remain asleep.  A man is called aware when he can fall asleep and still remain transparently alert deep down.  Only then do Sufis say that this man has attained to jikr – remembrance. And in this remembrance of one’s being one starts feeling God, experiencing God. (Osho, 2004:66-67).

Farz-i-dayim (the Sufi practice of constant prayer or perpetual remembrance of God) for Sufism is  translatable as conscious doing of all actions and being choicelessly aware. To keep the track of breaths  is to be aware, doing everything as a witness or watcher.
The concept of heightened attention or awareness as the key religious virtue is eloquently argued by Krishnamurti. Of course the Sufis have said about it but the way Krishnamurti and Osho interpret it in their demythologizing framework is something unprecedented.  For them to be aware of God is to be primarily aware of the immanent God in the phenomena. Hierarchy of existence and all the five degrees of divine presence aren’t exhausted by being merely aware of nature of flowing streams and chirping birds and buzzing bees. 

The Question of Belief and Atheism
What is ordinarily called faith or belief is understood somewhat differently by Sufism. It is no longer consent to a proposition (though at one level it appears to be so) but how one takes existence. Here it is a quality of being and not a matter of dispute at all. Perfection of faith is accompanied by tasting of God - "dhawq" of sheer Being. The mental or philosophical concept of Being is not the issue but experiencing God's Being as 'tasting' (dhauq). Religion is thus ultimately a discovery, a personal discovery and most modern criticisms of it are unwarranted in his scheme. S. H. Nasr has remarked that if it were possible to teach metaphysics to everyone there would have been no agnostic or atheist around (Nasr, 1993: 9). If God is Reality, both existence and what transcends existence, both Being and Non-Being, it is indeed difficult to disagree with Nasr. Ibn ‘Arabî presents such a view of God as Reality with great force and it is indeed difficult to disagree with him for even a die-hard skeptic. Accepting Tillich’s statement that God is Being (which is Akbarian position more or less) makes atheism impossible as one professor who attended Tillich’s famous lecture on symbols of faith remarked. Personal Godism (Absolutizing personal or qualitied God or Saguna Brahman, identifying Ishwara with Paramatma, Being with Beyond-Being, understanding God only as a person and taking literalist view of basic “proposition” of theology) is the heresy of exoteric theology of which Ibn ‘Arabî  the metaphysician is not guilty. His metaphysical understanding of God as Infinite and All-Possibility subsumes everything and transcends mere believing posture and theistic/atheistic binary. God isn’t an epistemological problem at all for him. But realization of our true theonomous nature is the issue and religion is meant to lead towards that goal.

Sufism and Libertine Spirituality
Against Cartesean construction of body and soul Ibn ‘Arabî  follows the traditional ternery division of body, soul and spirit. Because the soul dwells in an in-between realm it must choose to strive for transformation and realization. ‘All is ok’ or ‘feel good’ spirituality quite popular today is simply a simplification and naivity.The sacred law is important for keeping the body and soul in the service of spirit. Against those extreme idealists and monists who find hardly any reality in body and soul, in their great struggles, falls and jumps and in the name of unitarianism declare time to be illusory, the world to be a unreal distraction, the body to be a prison he is for integral view of man which recognizes the rights of body, soul and spirit. Below the level of Absolute personal God and finite self of the servant are real. The servant must unceasingly pray. The body imposes limitations and therefore man is not God. The Spirit alone is one with God. The body and soul are not. Servitude can’t be denied, the reality of individual self can’t be wished away as long as we exist as entities in space and time. Absolute unification is not possible. God ever remains the exalted. One must guard against “spiritual Titanism.” The insights of Semitic religions and theologies that emphasize our in-between nature – that we are situated between earth and heaven, immanence and transcendence, time and eternity, beasts and angels, existence and non-existence and are in Rumi’s words “midway between, and struggling” – and distinction of the Creator and the created are there to stay. For Ibn ‘Arabî  we are situated in this world but really belong to the next and are “at a doorway between existence and non-existence.”
Sufism is not to be identified with or accused of that extreme monism which disregards distinction and hierarchies that are real at a certain plane and can’t be whitewashed with the brush of monism. Failure to respect such polarities as servant-God, world-God, sinner saint and distinct ontological grades that the traditional doctrine of hierarchy of existence maintains amounts to serious misreading of traditional understanding of Unitarianism of Sufis. Denial of the relative validity of the fundamental distinctions is denial of doctrine itself that only transcends rather than fuses diversity of phenomena. There is a distinction between the sinner and the saint, the saint and the prophet, the satanic and the divine, samsara and nirvana for a consciousness that is still to lose discriminating vision on the way to nirvana. One can’t deny in the name of Unitarian vision the provisionally real character of these distinctions as long as one lives in the world of multiplicity. It is only a nirvanic consciousness that can declare that samsara is nirvana. A person who only knows samsara and trapped in the dualistic vision can’t declare this as several authorities have made clear. Only a nirvanic consciousness can assert, from the viewpoint of eternity, that time is not, that no distinction really exists, that samsara is nirvana. It is not possible for the dualistic consciousness to assert so. Libertine mystical thinkers such as Osho’s discourse about the illusoriness of ego and thus his call for its transcendence means that we need to respect the world of multiplicity or distinctions at the relative plane. From the viewpoint of Absolute nothing is, the universe of manifestation is not; it is now as it was then. So the world of duality and distinctions of which theology takes a note and which conceptualizing intellect takes cognizance is not to be bracketed off as Osho seems to imply sometimes in his overemphasis on Brahman to the exclusion of Maya. There is no dualism but dualities are there and experienced by everyone. The vision of the One doesn’t abolish the duality of Lord and servant as long as the servant continues to live in the world of finitude as Ramakrishna used to say. Certain kinds of pain of which flesh is necessarily heir to don’t cease to trouble the body of even a Buddha as long as he continues to eat and sleep till death. Parinirvana, the beatific vision in its full glory is not possible in this world. It is death alone that tears the veil completely as man is no longer fettered by body. Existence is a fetter and we need to move beyond existence for the consummation of religious life. This is the claim of traditional eschatologies. Osho echoes certain libertine claimants of Sufism who argued for an interpretation of wahdatul wujud that nullified the sacred law.

Sufism and the God of Love
Love is the most important component of practical spirituality.Sufi poetry is quintessentially love poetry. The most distinctive thing in Sufi view of God is what Jesus meant when he called God as lov Ibn ‘Arabî  belongs to the ancient, universal, timeless School of Love. The vision of love as the path to Truth or the Truth itself is presented in these famous lines from Ibn Arabi’s TarjumanuI Ashwaq: “I follow the Way of Love,
and where Love's caravan takes its path,
there is my religion, my faith." God created out of love and love is the cause of every movement, every longing, every endeavour in the universe. Akbarian Sufi doctrine put in the language of love states that "there is but One Reality: Love or Sheer Being, which manifests Itself in two forms, the lover and the Beloved." One quote from the Tanazzulât al-mawsiliyya will suffice to show importance of love for him “All praise to God who made love (al-hawâ) a sanctuary towards which the hearts of all men whose spiritual education is complete make their way and a ka'ba around which the secrets of the chests of men of spiritual refinement revolve.” He celebrates both feminine and divine beauty, the former because the formless God manifests in all forms and most brilliantly in feminine face. He conceives love as fundamental driving force in the cosmos. In fact we can call his metaphysics as the metaphysics of love. All love is essentially holy or divine for him because it is really (though many are not conscious of this) directed towards God who alone is and who is the only Beloved smiling in every form. He is not averse to physical aspect of love though he is for progressive Platonization of love; he is for moving from phenomena to the One which manifests yet hides in them.
Iraqi perfectly expresses Akbarian understanding of Shahdah’s metaphysical content in his Lam’aat by saying “There is no love but Love.” In the end he reduces everything to this statement of Iraqi.   Iraqi’s following lines also express the same vision: “Expressions are many
but Thy loveliness is one;
Each of us refers
to that single Beauty." Sufi poets in general often choose to speak of Reality or Absolute in terms of Love. Akbarian Sufi doctrine put in the language of love states that "there is but One Reality: Love or Sheer Being, which manifests Itself in two forms, the lover and the Beloved." One quote from the Futûhât will suffice to show how great a lover he is. "By God, I feel so much love that it seems as though the skies would be rent asunder, the stars fall and the mountains move away if I burdened them with it: such is my experience of love " For him love is the universal and unifying theme in his worldview. He wrote in the Tanazzulât al-mawsiliyya:  “All praise to God who made love (al-hawâ) a sanctuary towards which the hearts of all men whose spiritual education is complete make their way and a ka'ba around which the secrets of the chests of men of spiritual refinement revolve.”  Like Nietzsche his justification for life is ultimately aesthetical as he argues for transcendence of good-evil binary at metaphysical plane and sees fundamental motivation of creation in divine wish to share its creative joy and beauty. His exegesis of the hidden treasure is aesthetic as God appears to be an artist who needs to exhibit his work of art for the contemplation of others. For him the world of manifestation is nothing but the activity of love as God loved to be known or share his love (the Good tends to diffuse as Augustine puts it) and created the world, a mirror of His attributes. The world is the “other” to God so that he could see mirror Himself. In a way it is His object of love. The worlds are markers or traces of the incessant loving activity of God through unveiling by means of creation/ manifestation. Because the different worlds or realms of manifestation are Divine Self-determinations they acquire a reflection of Divine Existence and this “reflection is the movement of life called love." He says: “No existence-giver ever gives existence to anything
until it loves giving it existence. Hence everything
in wujûd is a beloved, so there are nothing but loved
ones.” (Ibn Arabi, 1972, IV 424-21) Ibn ‘Arabî is not the one who could countenance dualism of body and soul and saw the body as the vehicle of spirit and thus essentially divine. There is a divinity in physical touch as Tantrism and Kashmir Shaivism particularly emphasize and Ibn ‘Arabî would agree.
As opposed to every romantic and dualistic understanding of love, Sufism envisions love as lying at the centre of reality as is the case in Plato, world mystical traditions and in fact in all religions. Love and self-denial go hand in hand. The denial of the self is the cornerstone of all religions. This allows the higher self, the Spirit, the Inner man in us to take reigns and the triad of values, Goodness, Beauty, Truth are then realized and life becomes transformed from its otherwise alienated, fragmentary, fear ridden, sorrowful, restless state to Life Divine, which is integrated, blissful life that radiates peace and love. The attributes of divinity are appropriated by the traveler on the path. Religions build on this transformed vision of life and worship God as Love, Beauty, Goodness and whatever beautiful names or aspects that there are. Mystics of diverse hues agree that there are two selves, one illusory or limiting and the other real, knowing which one knows everything. Love has been traditionally one of the chief means of approaching the great King. Self transcendence achieved through love is the crux of Sufi vision as it is of the esoteric religion and wisdom traditions of the world.

Sufism and the Debate over Interpretations
Sufism has a pragmatic answer to the nagging problem of interpretation that has bedeviled postmodern philosophies. As long as one approaches a text as an object and seeks for any hidden or final meaning and tries to establish his own standpoint on that basis one may not get anywhere. Meaning is experienced or revealed to a traveler on the path. One only needs to polish the mirror of the heart and it will reflect the truth, plain and simple. True knowing is being the object of knowledge. Truth is not in words but in states and stations induced on contemplating these words. Sufis  reiterate time and again that God is to be tasted rather than discussed and this (dis)solves the problems of interpretation for good. Ibn ‘Arabî offers a challenge to all theologians and critics to develop that higher perception he calls unveiling (kashf). From his perspective the enterprise of higher criticism applied to elucidation of sacred texts which make no reference to moral purification or polishing the mirror of self is laughable venture. Unless the sacred text is revealed afresh to one’s heart nothing can illumine its real meaning according to him. Modern civilization dictates terms to reality and doesn’t let reality to dictate and this is its undoing. Sufism stands for premodern view which privileges the rights of the Reality against us  but which modernity rejected by emphasizing individualism and subjectivism which dictate terms to Reality and advocates a discipline that silences the mind so that the unknown shall speak. Our problem is we are not receptive to the revelations of the Real. Modernism is arrogantly after interpretations, questioning and refining them but the encounter with the Real in all its nakedness eludes him. Because of his denial of intellectual intuition and revelation of any nontextual supralinguistic knowledge postmodernists like Derrida are unable to transcend the relativistic plane of language. Analytical philosophical tradition too is trapped in the cobwebs of language and linguistic analysis. These imply that he is denied the deliverance by truth or self realization as understood in the Sufi worldview. The Faustian man, obstinately committed to perpetual interpretation, doesn’t open himself to reality as has been remarked by many a critic of modernism. He dictates terms to reality and doesn’t allow himself to be consumed/annihilated by it which is universally recognized as the condition of entering the higher life, life divine or birth in the kingdom of heaven as a jivan mukta. It is only modern civilization which is ever anxious to speak to reality rather than allow reality to speak to reality rather than allow reality to speak to it and that accounts for modern man’s obsession with the realm of interpretation. He doesn’t taste the Real as he has chosen to alienate himself from it; he wishes to eliminate the element of mystery and thus the sacred from the world. Life as a mystery invites us to be dissolved by it, consumed by it.  Modernity through rationalization and familiarization and consequent descaralization of the world has ceased to feel the extent of the mystery of what we ordinarily deem to be familiar things; to see phenomena as symbols of deeper reality of God. The more he interprets, the more he loses contact with the Real.

Sufi Inclusivism against Totalizing Narratives
The Unitarian Sufism leads to an all-inclusive point of view, which is not limited to the world of nature, or to humanity, to science, economics or religion, but which sees all of these as faces of a single reality described by the doctrine of unity the kernel of which is, in the apt words of Young,
love and the love of that love, which is movement and life, and the perfection of completion, simple, positive, joyful news of their intrinsic and inseperable unity with their origin, offering freedom from the tyranny of the thought of otherness, in exchange for the certainty in one, absolute and all-embracing Reality, to Which, to Whom all service is due (Young 1999).
Rumi has magnificently expressed the ideal of Sufi inclusivism.

There is neither body nor soul for I am the Soul of Souls.
I have expelled duality from myself. I have seen the two worlds as one.
Let me seek One, say One, know One and desire One.
Sufi notion of total acceptance (raza) and absolute gratefulness (shkr) stand appropriated beautifully in the following remarks of Osho.

If there is dancing and there is singing and there is joy and there is love, and life is respected not denied, not negated but affirmed, with all that it contains- with all the pains and all the pleasures, with all the agonies and all the ecstasies- then life is praised in its totality, only then does rejoicing happen. (Osho, 2001: 73).

According to him Ihsan means not to be split and further elaborates:

If you don’t want to see God, forget about it. Be in the world; let the world be your only reality. One day or other you will be frustrated. Then the search for God will start. But there is no need to go right now. If you are not ripe yet, it is better to remain in the world. The world will make you ripe for God. If you are really ready, then don’t ride on two horses. Then choose. That is the meaning of ihsan- authenticity, sincerity (Osho, 2001: 152).

Sufism and Secular Activism
Sufism is neither moralism nor a system of ideas or doctrines. It is neither otherworldly nor ascetic. It is neither ahistorical nor ignorant of social treality. It talks of man and not of the God of exoteric theology. It is no argument against Sufism that it has been misused and misappropriated by escapists, occultists, begger-priests, charlatans, magicians and even the State Powers. More people have been killed in the name of Marxism in 50 years than in the history of religion in 1000years but that is no argument against Marx either.  Religion is not what religion does. Neither is Sufism what Sufism does or is done in its name. Mysticism/Sufism has, in the deepest sense, nothing to do with doing. Lao Tzu puts it so well. Nonaction accomplishes all actions and is the hardest “action” as Taoism says. Modernity is all action and that is why much sound and fury. Religion in its esoteric view concerns with being rather than doing. Mysticism is quality and seculer movements such as Marxism are all quantity. Marxism is collectivism and religion or mysticism neither individualistic like Capitalism nor collectivist but supraindividual. History is ample witness that both individualism and collelectivism have been dangerous.
Man doesn’t live by bread alone and surely not for bread. He earns bread for something else and it is to that something to which religion concerns itself. Marxism concerns with man’s social self while as the individual to the individual self. Marxism limits itself to the temporal and the contingent though it thinks that there is nothing that transcends them but religion has its eye on the eternal and even grants that people know better about the worldly matters and should resolve them by collective effort. The spirit in man transcends history but Marxism refuses to look beyond history and asserts that what is not manifested in history is for all purposes unreal.
Why is religion, especially the mystical religion, perceived as enemy of a socialist or communist state? It is an opium. It lulls workers to sleep. It is thus antirevolutionary. It is complicit with capitalism. It too exploits in the name of God when it extracts wealth from gullible masses. It creates false substitutes like the goods of the otherworld so that people don’t take the problems of this world very seriously. It encourages detachment that conflicts with the spirit of active involvement needed for changing the order of the world. It reconciles people to present ills by attributing them to fate or karma. It says resist not evil and believes that change of heart in the capitalist will do the needful. It is false consciousness or inverted view of the world. It merely provides consolation and not real help. It is not against private property per se. Brief comments on all these points are in order.
First of all let it be made clear that we need to distinguish between religion and mysticism and it is the later which is here defended and it is also assumed (but not argued as that is a separate issue) that it represents the core of religion. We also need to distinguish between sentimental mysticism and intellectual mysticism. Guenon has remarked that there is no mysticism in the traditional East. Sentimentalism is modern phenomenon and associated with exoteric Christianity. Mysticism is based on Intellect as distinguished from reason and its discoveries are absolutely certain as there is no role of individual, his feelings and psychical processes in intellectual intuition. Ideally one shouldn’t talk of mysticism but of metaphysics – not the post-Aristotelian and Cartesean one but the one that concerns itself with the supraphenomenal but not the abstract by means of a supraindividual suprarational faculty called Nous or Intellect, is not speculation but experience and is as precise a science as mathematics with as concrete an applications as physics in all the domains of life from arts and crafts to sciences and cultural expressions. Theology should be autology otherwise it is wide off the mark. Theism is far from the pure truth of metaphysics. The existence of personal God is hardly an issue. Buddha is the metaphysician. The Supreme Principle is not Being but something that transcends being or existence.

   For Sufism heaven and hell are now or never. The beyond of which the religion talks mysticism brings here and now, in history. It is the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or Spirit that make all of us worshippers of beauty, truth, love and justice.


History refutes the assertion that religion lulls people to sleep. Perhaps all great revolutions in history could be traced to the influence of religion. Prophets have been, generally speaking, social rebels, politically dangerous and that is why mostly mocked if not executed. They have challenged the establishment and existing socio-political-economic set up while standing for the oppressed, the sinners, the masses. The same is the case with mystics. They have been persecuted by both the paid officials of exoteric religion and the State. They have denounced riches and in many cases taken arms against the State. They have preached if not fought against the haves, the ruling class.  Of course religion degenerates soon and as Stalin replaces Marx so a pope replaces Christ and Yazeed replaces Umer. Religion is hardly anywhere in sight today. In a generation only one or two live it in its true spirit as Simone Weil observed. In the degenerated populist form of Marxism Marx would not have counted as a Marxist as Christ is imprisoned rather than welcome when he arrives on earth in Dostoevsky’s novel. It is in the name of religion that people have dethroned many regimes. Jihad is an instrument to forcefully implement revolutionary spirit of religion. By definition it is directed against oppressors regardless of creed or colour or region. Any struggle carried for the sake of justice and freedom from oppression without any selfish motive can qualify as Jihad. Sufis have ben leading from the front struggles against injustice from Hasan Basri to Shah Ismail and Abdul Qadir Jirzi.
         Mysticism has actively struggled against the self that seeks private property. Mystics have been reported to sell everything for society even when society in turn made no commitment to share its wealth with him. Jesus rejected private property as did his Russian disciple Tolstoy. Prophet’s companions shared everything with their brothers. Augustine identified charity as the essence of scripture. Buddhism prefers begging to hoarding.
        Priestly class has often been complicit with exploiting ruling class. That is why prophets like Jesus denounced them. Islam has no space for intermediaries. Sufism categorically leaves out all intermediaries stating that God is the only Teacher and that God is here and now and human heart is his temple.
       Of course mystics/Sufis have been pacifists and have not advocated violence in meeting enemies. Marxism is more effective in meeting an enemy which understands no language other than violence. But mysticism can act as a counterforce against indiscriminate use of violence. If Lenin and Stalin were mystics as well they would not have allowed so much violence to be unleashed. Mystics do well to make us remember that it is after all life which should count above everything. If politicians cared about purity of means as well the world would have been a different place. Violence achieves only short term results. The change of heart achieves great results. Ashoka’s change of heart meant much for many people. Marxism imagines only war but mysticism believes that peace too can be an option sometimes to achieve the result. Psychology tells us that violence breeds reaction and thus more violence. If the world can’t be converted in the name of love it can’t be ever peaceful. Peace can’t endure there. We must war against capitalism with full force but we must work for transformation of the culprit self that ultimately makes capitalist a capitalist. That people could be transformed on large scale and make the world a better place is evidenced in history. This is what the Prophet of Islam achieved though Marxist reading would see only immoral calculative business mentality everywhere even in the self denying martyrs and mystics and prophets.
        Marxist critics have straight away dismissed what they call as Oriental indifference or detachment towards social concerns. But how can they explain that Krishna urges Arjuna to fight, Rama is a great warrior, karma yoga and hatha yoga have been Oriental inventions. The life of action is not incompatible with the life of detachment at spiritual plane. Witnessing consciousness or spirit is not involved in action but transcends action. But efficient self is the agent of action and efficient and appreciative selves, to use the terminology used by Iqbal, are one self really. The famous parable of two birds from the Upanisads and other traditions makes the point of two selves admirably well. Detachment in spirit is not incompatible with involvement of body and soul in the world of action. Salvation itself needs great effort or involvement. Nothing is unreal or unimportant for a struggling soul. Buddha is actively involved in making his vision realizable for others. His nirvana doesn’t make him uncritical regarding oppression of Brahmins etc. Some mystics have led active military life. Vivekananda, Aurobindo and many other great names in contemporary Indian mysticism were all action centric. In Islamic history many reform movements have been launched by Sufis. Many active resistance movements in history have been spearheaded or masterminded by Sufis. Islam’s most dynamic thinkers have been mystical minds. The 20th century’s greatest Muslim philosopher of action and the one who had deep historical sense and political commitment, Iqbal, was essentially a Sufi thinker. The history of Sufism eloquently refutes most of Marxist and humanist criticisms of religion and mysticism. 
       Islam, among other Oriental traditions, has been criticized as fatalist. Sufism is especially vulnerable to fatalist reading according to most Orientalists. One may remark here that the doctrine of fate has been gloriously misunderstood by Caudwell and other Marxist critics. Far from reconciling people to their present sorry state it presupposes freedom to transform one’s condition for the better. It is scientific statement of the law of action and reaction at moral plane. It is largely verifiable by recourse to insights of psychology. There is no permanent soul or personality named So and so that could reincarnate in Oriental religions. Lord is the only transmigrant as Shankara says according to orthodox belief. Animistic conception of rebirth is foreign to traditional religion. Islam has been very vocal Nondualism clearly implies that there can be no real bondage to karma. It is all illusory when seen from the perspective of a liberated soul. Even if karma is understood in populist sense it can be read to goad one to action as it asserts importance of action, either good or bad.  Higher fatalism, which Iqbal sees in Islam, is there even in Nietzsche and Marxism in a way. The thing is to affirm life despite perception of economic determinism and this is what Marxism preaches. Fate understood in metaphysical terms is, as Iqbal says, the inward reach of a thing, a designation for latent or potential possibilities (Iqbal, 1997: 40). It is realization of inner riches. It is unfolding of spirit in history in accordance with a law of its own development. Fatalism cannot be an excuse for sloth or indifference. Consistent nondualism sees neither sin nor karma nor fate. It is extremely subtle position that mystical traditions maintain which even scholars trained in traditional thought may miss not to speak of Marxist critics who have prior assurance that  all doctrines are at the service of ruling class or capitalist or pious fraud or invented to console one’s felt impotence at the face of hostile reality. How casual one can be in understanding the other is illustrated in Marxist dismissal of religion. Marx was not so casual and so unsympathetic as his later followers.
      Religion has no need to be apologetic about its key claims. It asserts them with absolute certitude and conviction. The Quran asserts that God is irresistible. None can resist him, not even an atheist Nietzsche or a Marx. God can’t possibly be doubted. God is manifest truth. The problem is that few people understand what the term God stands for and why to be a skeptic is to be a fool as the Bible says. Either we have to state that the Bible and the Quran are stating a plain lie or attempt to understand what they mean by the term God. In simple terms God is the witnessing consciousness, the elusive thing inside us that asserts “I.” God is also synonymous with Reality/ Truth. How is it possible to be skeptical of Ibn Arabi’s formulation of doctrine concerning God if we grant his fundamental premise , derived from the Quran, of God identified with the Reality or Haqq.
      The real Sufis have not looted credulous masses; rather they have spent everything for them and used to distribute food by way of free langar, provide accommodation in khankahs for the poor who couldn’t afford hotels. They have not made spirituality their means of livelihood though they did accept free gifts. They have not taught people to glorify themselves instead of God when their problems got solved presumably due to their prayers. They have not liked the shortcuts of drugs or bhang to transcend ordinary mode of consciousness. They have not thought themselves to be gods and have aspired for the station of ubudiyyat. Abduhu was the greatest station that the Prophet of Islam(S.A.W.) attained and aspired for.
      The critics of Sufism need to note that Sufism is not an ideology; it is not occultism and faith healing business. It is not an opium that lulls the suffering victims to political inertia. It is not a theory about anything but realization, tasting. It is not a philosophical school among other schools but a darsana or vision. It is not one particular interpretation of Islam that rivals other interpretation but the core, the essence of all approaches that contribute in any sense towards elucidation of truth or reality behind the words or symbolized by the words. It doesn’t negate theology but only verifies it at a higher plane and gives it more universal and deeper metaphysical grounding. Sufism is not a system of beliefs but a code of discipline for the self and it is open to anybody and its claims can by verified or tested by anyone serious enough to make all kinds of sacrifices for the discovery of truth. Very few dare to be such great adventurers of the territory of spirit as very few can sell everything dear to them (or detach themselves from them) that is prerequisite for the knowledge of truth or God may necessitate. Sufism is not pir parasti and grave worship. It worships the Living God (al-Hayy), the principle of all life. It acknowledges ultimately no external authority of pir but finds true guide or sheikh within.
         Islam is a religion which has characteristically emphasized sobriety, affirmative transcendence, law and balances the rights of the body as well as the soul and spirit, deed and idea or action and contemplation, time and eternity, historical and the metahistorical, the self and the other or non-self, this world and the otherworld, the dualistic plane of ordinary consciousness and unitary plane of higher consciousness. Sufism as understood by such masters as Qayshari, Junaid, Ibn Arabi, Ghazali, Sirhindi, Shah Waliullah and others has been true to this spirit of balance between different poles of reality. Great masters of Sufism have always been critical of corruptions in Sufi practice at the hands of ignorant dervishes, addicts, madmen, occultists, guardians of the shrines, womanizers, so-called pirs posing as Sufi masters and libertine pseudoSufis. Modern forms of sama would be loathed by most Sufi authorities. Just a few remarks of Ibn Arabi on his contemporary dervishes:"They have no knowledge of the prohibited (al-harâm) to make them return"; and "They don't know the conditions of the sunna or the obligatory works, they aren't even fit to serve as a servant in the toilets." Ibn Qayyim Jawzi and such things as the chapter on Sufism in Talbeesi Iblees have great value for separating the satanic from the divine in what poses as Sufism. Most pirs selling amulets and involved in the business of djinns are not real Sufis. Most of true Sufis are hidden – extraordinarily ordinary persons – whom you can’t guess easily as being elevated souls. A very simple test of a good Sufi is his character and how far he has appropriated the states of patience, love of fate (amor fati), trust in God etc. He can’t be self centred. Apparently supernatural things, predictions, mind reading, faith healing can’t be trusted as evidence of being genuine Sufi. Self praise and boosting are indications of one’s degradation. Genuine Sufis have no interest to be respected, praised, served and in money minting. They respect shrines but are not asthan parast as the greatest shrine is the human heart and God’s residence is there only. They will help the poor more than they will be interested in celebrating urses with great pomp. They are not great debaters to be interested in takfeer of rivals, to dispute doctrinal matters, to slander other believers. They believe only in themselves – even Gabriel is a prey in their net – so they cannot be accused of shirk. They will not readily beg even God for mundane things – their prayer is not petition – not to speak of going from asthan to asthan. They are more interested in saving their souls rather than in processing the files of the clients regarding worldly matters.
      The relevant question is not is Sufism true but are we true to ourselves. Who can disagree that we need to know ourselves? If we know ourselves we know God. The question is do we know our essence, our real self. Answering that question and answering this question we answer all questions. Fools debate while the wise people enjoy the feast that God is serving every moment. God is not a thing to be debated or argued but something to be realized or tasted or enjoyed.

Sufism and Metaphysical Meaning of Prophet
According to Sufism Muhammad is primarily significant and understandable in metaphysical/ontological terms. Metaphysically Muhammad is the principle of manifestation.  God in his transcendence would be unknowable and practically of no interest to man if He had not expressed/manifested in the world of forms, if there were no immanent divinity. Immanence is possible by virtue of the principle called the light of Muhammad in Sufi metaphysics. Nothing can compare, in world literature, to the grandeur and beauty of na’t(poems in praise of Muhammad)  literature. Islamic tradition has given 99 names to the Prophet which express the most beautiful, magnificent and multifaceted aspects of existence or life. Thus Muhammad is more than a historical person. He is the metaphysical basis of the world of manifestation. In Iqbal’s words the Prophet is the First and the Last, the Centre around which everything moves, the  rare treasure  in whose quest are all existents. For the Sufis every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of the Prophet. Life is a supreme value and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life. All our endeavors, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise the Prophet who is understood as the Pole of existence. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. The Prophet is the positivity of manifestation as he is the principle of Manifestation. This is the import of traditional understanding of the phenomenon of Muhammad or Noori Muhammadi. For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Durood is a means of reenchanting the deserted garden of the world. Durood, understood at its deepest spiritual/metaphysical level, is a means of integration, individuation and dealienation. It connects us to the depths of larger life, to the ground of our being. The life of care that is open to Being, to use Heideggerian terminology, is what durood aims at. Iqbal has expressed metaphysical understanding of the Prophet in his poem “Zouq-o-Shouq.”  All endeavours are for realizing the station of Muhammad, all seeking is seeking of Muhammad, all roads lead to Mecca. History is moving prophetword. The electron, the earth, the sun, the galaxies all revolve round the centre called Muhammad. This is something which gnostics and lovers can understand. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahib-al Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Prophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. Being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. “In the rapturous vitality of the birds, in their splendid glancing flight: in the swelling of buds and the sacrificial beauty of the flowers: in the great and solemn rhythms of the sea” – there is the Muhammedan Light for the Gnostic or Aarif, for those who see with the eyes of God, who see their Beloved everywhere, those who have found eternity here and now. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is blessing existence or life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation.  The same applies to other traditions and their understanding of Christ/ Buddha etc.

Sufism and Mysticism of Joy
We need to consider in greater detail the charge of pessimism against Sufism. Sufism has been widely misunderstood on this point. Granted that early Sufis were quite aloof from worldly pursuits and detested political life and overemphasized temptations of this world. They didn’t heartily laugh as they were too cautious regarding the dangers on spiritual path. The fear of hell was too real to let them sleep well at times. However the dominant note in most Sufis is one of exultation and ecstasy. Having accessed a kind of joy that would make kings abandon their thrones instantly if they could have a glimpse of it the Sufis have nothing to fear according to Rumi. They are not moralists or preachers because, as Rumi says, the job of the Sufi is to dance as it is the Prophet’s prerogative to preach.  The following observations of Underhill in her classic study of mysticism apply preeminently to Sufism where there was no scope for monkhood, for avoiding or escaping the world of form and colour and where the dominant tradition has been one of affirmative transcendence. What characterizes Sufi poetry above all is the theme of love and the highest joy known to man is in the experience of love.
In the lives of the great theopathic mystics we find, as Underhill notes, an amazing superabundant vitality, enhancement of man’s small derivative life by the Absolute Life (Underhill, 1961: 429). The history of mysticism testifies to the great vitality, the great fruitful lives of works, active creative life of mystics. Mystics have not generally been deniers of the world, morons with diminished life energy. The mystic is reborn into new, intense, vigorous, creative and veritable life, life of action even though contemplation itself is a sort of action. Quietist mysticism isn’t the whole of mysticism. Prophetic mysticism has been primarily activist. The mystic is ideally the ruler of the world as the great mystic Plato has taught this. God who represents Life force itself works through the mystic, the latter having become a medium for the same.  Ideally mysticism has sought the Reality “which seems from the human standpoint at once static and dynamic, transcendent and immanent, eternal and temporal: accepted both the absolute World of  Pure Being  and the unresting World of Becoming as integral parts of its vision of Truth, demanding on its side a dual response” (Underhill, 1961:429). The mystic inwardly is just witnessing consciousness, far from the madding crowd, unidentified with samsaric becoming. But outwardly his career can be one of “superhuman industry.” Transcending existence he dominates it being a son of God, a member of eternal order, sharing its substantial life as Underhill points out (Underhill, 1961:434). The twofold character of Godhead, described by Roysbroeck as “Tranquility according to His essence, activity according to His Nature: absolute repose, absolute fecundity” is reflected in the life of the mystic who has communed with the Absolute. “To be a mystic is simply to participate here and now in that real and eternal life; in the fullest, deepest sense which is possible for man. It is to share, as free and conscious agent – not as a servant, but a son – in the joyous travail of the Universe… He is the pioneer of Life on its age long voyage to the One: and shows us, in his attainment, the meaning and value of that life (Underhill, 1961: 447). I again reproduce a lengthy quote from Underhill on the meaning of mysticism, which consists in glorification and celebration of life in all its beauty and splendor.

Its exultant declarations come to us in all great music; its magic in the life of all romance. Its law – the law of love – is the substance of the beautiful, the energizing cause of the heroic. All man’s dreams and diagrams concerning a transcendent perfection near him yet intangible, a transcendent vitality to which he can attain – whether we call these objects of desire God, grace, being, spirit, beauty, “pure idea” – are but translations of his deeper self’s intuition of its destiny; clumsy fragmentary hints at the all-inclusive, living Absolute which that deeper self knows to be real (Underhill, 1961: 447).

Mysticism is to know the beauty, the majesty, the divinity, the splendour, of the living World of Becoming. It is to participate in the “great life of the All.” It is an attitude of gratitude to Life Principle (which traditions call as Spirit), acceptance of All or Totality or Existence and appropriating this Cosmic Will. Mysticism finds and celebrates the revelations of the Transcendent Life not in some remote plane of being, in metaphysical abstractions, in ecstatic states, but “in the normal acts of our diurnal experience, suddenly made significant to us. Not in the backwaters of existence, not amongst subtle arguments and occult doctrines, but in all those places where the direct and simple life of earth goes on” (Underhill, 1961: 449-50). God is three pounds of flex or a cup of tea for the Zen mystics and in fact for all mystics who enjoy all things in God. Both philosophy (in the traditional civilizations such as ancient Greek to which Plato was a heir) and mysticism spring from the same source and lead to the same goal which is wonder at and contemplation of the immense grandeur, the mystery, the beauty of existence. (Both Plato and Aristotle traced the origin of philosophy to wonder and by philosophy they meant the “contemplation (theoria) of the manifested cosmic order, or of the truth and beauty of the divine principles (be they visible stars or invisible noetic archetypes)” (Algis Uzdanvinys, 2005: xvii). Science too originates in wonder and ultimately it deepens our sense of mystery rather than demystifies as Einstein said. Even art or literature amounts to the same thing if it is understood with the formalists, as defamiliarization of the objects, representations of objects that give delight. For mystics the “story of man’s spirit ends in a garden: in a place of birth and fruitfulness, of beautiful and natural things. Divine Fecundity is its secret” (Underhill, 1961: 450). For them the “winter is over: the time of the singing of birds is come. From the deeps of the dewy garden, Life- new, unquenchable, and ever lovely- comes to meet with them with the dawn” (Underhill, 1961: 450-51).
Mysticism has always been a celebration of life as a carnival of joy though sometimes this dimension mightn’t be foregrounded. Reality, all mystics come to realize, is made of the substance of Joy. It is anada, bliss. In fact all earthly joys are a reflection of this heavenly Joy. That is why Dante, initiated into Reality as Paradise, sees the whole universe laugh with delight as it glorifies God and the awful countenance of Perfect Love adorned with smiles. The souls of the great theologians dance to music and laughter in the Heaven of the Sun; the loving seraphs, in their ecstatic joy whirl about the Being of God. Love and joy are perceived as the final attributes of the Triune God. St. Francis illustrates quite eloquently with his life and works the fruits of contemplative life as playful rejoicing in Absolute. The mystic dwells high in heavens and thus with gods who are ever happy. They run, rejoice and make merry joining “the eager dance of the Universe about the One.” Osho in his celebration of dalliance, song and dance only echoes Patmore who said, “If we may credit certain hints in the lives of the saints, love raises the spirit above the sphere of reverence and worship into one of laughter and dalliance: a sphere in which the soul says:-Shall I, a gnat which dances in Thy ray/Dare to be reverent” (Qtd. by Underhill, 1961: 438).
Richard Rolle has also expressed in The Fire of Love this “spirit of dalliance” saying about the lover of God that “a heavenly privity inshed he feels, that no man can know but he that  has received it, and in himself bears the electuary that anoints and makes happy all joyful lovers in Jesu; so that they cease not to hie in heavenly seats to sit, endlessly their Maker to enjoy.” That the state of burning love is “the state of Sweetness and Song” is eloquently demonstrated in the lives of dancing dervishes, the haunting music and great passion of Sufi songs. Music, life without which is a mistake as Nietzsche remarked, which expresses the joy peculiar to transcendary vision, is an elements of ritual worship in almost all religions. The mystic’s whole life is in a way a life of art; mysticism is aestheticization of life. Ananda Coomaraswamy has made the same point in his great works on traditional art. The music of the spheres, spoken about in traditional cosmologies, is all about the “secret child” of the Transcendent Order. The most delightful paintings and pieces of architecture with which traditional civilizations abound are derived from this spirit of beauty and dalliance that the Absolute which grounds their aesthetic expressions, is. Creative activity is a playful activity. The world is an expression of liela of God. God, and like Him the liberated souls, express themselves in play. The world is a work of art; God witnessing His beauty in the mirror of attributes.  There could be no utilitarian end applicable to the work of God. His is an art for the pure joy of art. The Good essentially wants to be radiated by its very nature and for some end or purpose humanly conceived. Existence as such can’t be but purposeless, it only celebrates itself. One can’t ask what is the purpose of heaven or God – they are their own ends. Life only glorifies Life. This is the meaning of the verses of scriptures where God glorifies himself or asks man to glorify His name or bless His prophets. Osho is right in celebrating purposelessness of life. He beautifully says that “rose is a rose is a rose.” What else it should be for? But he fails to see that this theme of cosmic play, purposeless play, pure joy of creation is granted by traditional religions and mysticism. Osho foregrounds and emphasize in diverse ways the plane of being that dares not to be reverent but simply dance, dance and dance in the Divine Ray. He appropriates faithfully the dance of Shiva.
The mystic is indeed “a part of the great melody of the Divine.” To quote Underhill’s quote from Rolle again: “Sweetest forsooth is the rest which the spirit takes whilst sweet goodly sound comes down, in which it is delighted: and in most sweet song and playful the mind is ravished, to sing likings of love everlasting” (Underhill, 1961: 439). The whole life of St. Francis was one long march to music through the world as Underhill notes (Underhill, 1961: 440). To sing seemed to him a primary spiritual function. Underhill has referred to the romantic quality of the Unitive Life – its gaiety, freedom and joy. Many mystics have expressed themselves in verse. This is only because the superabundant joy that wells within them needs such a medium to express. I will not refer to the Sufis’ love songs which are well known but to the songs of Christian mystics whom Osho especially indicts for their asceticism. My examples are again from Underhill. St. John of the Cross wrote love songs to his Love. St. Rose of Lima sang deuts with the birds. St. Teresa wrote rustic hymns and carols. In St. Catherine of Genoa, sang, in a spirit of childlike happiness, gay songs about her Love.
Thus we have seen that spirituality in Islam is an adventure into the mysterious, beautiful, peaceful, blissful world. It is creative, aesthetic and dynamic way of life. It is living life soulfully, joyfully. It is an attitude of thanksgiving to the giver of life.  It makes it possible to enjoy life in all its depths and heights.

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