Friday, 11 July 2014

Dare to Think

Reading Islam with Sufis and philosophers
There are some who have no doubts, or think they know perfectly the meaning of scripture, and are content with more or less literalist understanding. They think they have all the answers. This piece is not for them. This piece is dedicated to all those who are unable to ignore doubts regarding Islam preached in market place and have become agnostics or somehow pass on carrying their doubts with them. It is also written for those who find parts of Law difficult and go on with guilty conscience for what appears to them as breaking it. It is for those who don’t forget that above every scholar is a greater one. 
The Prophet’s constant prayer for showing him things as they really are, Hazrat Abu Bakr’s great saying that gnosis consists in knowing that the Absolute can’t be known, traditional practice of adding Wallahu aalam bissawab (God knows better) after we give our opinion,, flourishing of scores of schools or shades of opinion on legal, philosophical, theological issues in the history of Islam – all show there may be only provisional answers to many questions and no uniformity is required by God from us on many issues. 
Why thinking or tafakkur is needed to understand scripture is lucidly answered by Mulla Sadra thus: “The Quranic revelation is the light which enables one to see. It is like the sun which casts light lavishly. Philosophical intelligence is the eye that sees this light and without this light one cannot see anything. If one closes one’s eyes, that is, if one pretends to pass by philosophical intelligence, this light itself will not be seen because there will not be any eyes to see it.”
Now let us try to heed certain questions that help to deepen the understanding of the given issues. 

Notion of Shahadah
How strange that few note Islamic kalima doesn’t exactly constitute a creed. W C Smith has explained the point in his various writings. In shahadah one gives witness of God is one…. How come one can give witness when one has not seen Him? Witness is given of what one knows? So who says shahdah? And the Quran gives a hint when it calls God Shahid.
Cave of Hira 
Mawlana Amin Ahsan says it is cave of thinking or cave of contemplation. The Prophet (SAW) was engaged in very serious business there. 
Notion of Anul Haqq
Rumi explains the anul-haqq of Hallaj by comparing him to a piece of iron in the fire: the red, glowing iron calls out “I am fire” and yet its substance is still iron, not fire. As Schimmel explains in one of her Gifford lectures: “ For no absolute union between man and God is possible as long as the material, bodily aspects of creature persist.”  For Rumi “I am Truth” implies great humility on part of Mansoor.
The Prophet’s Age
Why the Prophet entered history in 6-7 century  AD? According to Ibn Arabi, “he entered history in the sign of Libra, which means that he inaugurated a new age in the sign of justice, that is, he struck the balance between the legalism of Moses and the mildness of Jesus.” Now astrological symbolism including symbolism of palmistry – on our hands 99 names of God are imprinted if we see 81 and 18 in Arabic script engraved on them – has today been largely forgotten by Muslims. 
Prohibition of Painting
Deeper reason for prohibition of painting human images is, in the words of a poet:
The sharia prohibits painting because It is impossible to paint your beauty.

Prohibition of Music ?
Let us read Farabi, Khusro, Mawlana Azad (in the closing paragraph of his Gubair Khatir), Luya al-Faruqi, Nasr, Burckhardt, Muhammad Jafar Shah Phulwari, Ghamdi  and other great scholars on the issue to put the question in proper perspective, and appreciate a different view than currently popular that puts a blanket ban on it. In fact I would suggest reading both Mufti Shafi’s and Phulwari’s texts identically titled Islam aur Moosiqi  for better comparative understanding of divergence in opinion. I quote Hubbi’s apt formulation: saz-o-santoor dahrayey/der shariat noa chuyaey/aashiqan tee bas chuyae
Notion of Satan
Read Rumi, who calls him Khawja-i-Ahli Firaq (The Master of Lovers), and Iqbal on it. One Kashmiri Sufi equation reads Satan as shae taan or six senses (that distract or delude us). 

Heaven and Resurrection
We finds “all-too-human descriptions of Paradise and their endless variations in the works of fanciful preachers” being criticized by both philosophers and mystics as pointed out by Anamerie Schimmel in Deciphering the Signs of God. To quote her: “The philosophers denied bodily resurrection (Avicenna) or taught that a simulacrum would be supplied (Averroes) or stated that only the soul survives; rather the souls of highly-developed thinkers and knowledgeable people will live on, while the simple souls, like grass, are destroyed at death. These ideas in a different key, resurface in Iqbal’s philosophy.”  While views of philosophers have been criticized and one may best turn to more mystically oriented thinkers like Al-Jili and Mulla Sadra for better or deeper meaning of eschatological notions. Samani has written “Why would you want to settle in a place which your father Adam sold for a grain.” Ghalib said: “Paradise which the mullah covets: a withered nosegay in the niche of forgetfulness of us who have lost ourselves.” Iqbal has said: “If our salvation means to be free from quest,/the tomb would be better than such an afterlife.” Heaven is no holiday for him and once the journey to God is finished, the infinite journey in God begins. I invite readers troubled by such questions as taqdir, reason of our coming here,  meaning or rationale of Adam’s Fall, Shab-i-Qadr, religious diversity ( majority of humans never come to know about Islam in the sense that is compelling and would warrant their reversion to it. A great number of people including tribals never come to know even of its name), suffering of innocent children, to such treasures of Islamic intellectual tradition as Al Jili’s Al-Insanil Kamil (The Perfect Man) and Mulla Sadra’s  Asfaar  and for those who may find them difficult to Taileem-I Gousa that presents the essence of teachings of Gous Ali Shah Qalandar. Nothing explains better the question of taqdir than the last mentioned book.

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