Britishmisk's Blog

Category: Tasawwuf

Reflections on Ibn ‘Arabi – “I Follow the Religion of Love”

O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaa’ba,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love’s camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.

Shaykh al-Akbar Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi is arguably the most controversial scholar within Sunni Islam, the only other individual to cause as much commotion within our tradition was his spiritual adversary, Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya. As Shaykh Hamza mentions, much of the work of Ibn ‘Arabi is outwardly kufr, and the snippet of poetry above from his collection of poetry Tarjuman al-Ashwaq can be interpreted as being such.

However as is with the nature of poetry, it cannot be taken at face value. Poetry at its pinnacle is a manifestation on the tongue on what the heart contains, and the nature of the heart is different to that of the mind, in that it is not necessarily comprised of things that are wholly logical and bound by the limits of the world (“My heavens and My earth cannot contain Me but the heart of My believing servant contains Me“). If we look at Ibn Arabi’s work in the context of orthodoxy we will find our way through ‘the sea without a shore’ that is the work of the ‘greatest Shaykh’.

In the creed of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’al Jama’ah we hold that all actions, good and evil, are created by Allah (“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Daybreak, from the evil which He created” 113:1-2), it is through a human being’s free will and choice that he or she acquires the action they choose to perform. When one comes to this realisation, it leads one to understand the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ‎) “to worship Allah as though you see Him”, for if everything around you is by the will and decree of Allah, then the means you see fade away and manifest to the heart the cause of all that is real, which in reality is al-Haqq, the Truth or the Ultimate Reality, that is Allah. Even the idol worshipper, who commits the gravest sin, can only do so because Allah has left that person to the choice they have made, and for the one who has become annihilated in the remembrance of Allah, even that is a reminder of Him, for it is a manifestation of the divine wrath, a single piece in the ephemeral world that serves its purpose simply to reflect the eternal.

So where does love fit into all this? In a hadith qudsi, Allah tells us through the words of His messenger (ﷺ‎): “I was a hidden treasure and loved to be known“, to this end Ibn ‘Arabi writes: “None but God is loved in existent things. It is He who is manifest within every beloved to the eye of every lover—and there is nothing which is not a lover. So all the cosmos is a lover and beloved, and all of it goes back to Him.” Once the aspirant sees Allah in everything, even seeing disbelief for him is a sign towards love of Allah, for it is a reminder of when his or her existence was not driven towards seeking the Ultimate Reality. Without witnessing wrath how would we know mercy? Without knowing misguidance (dalala) how we would we know what is guidance (huda)? For Ibn ‘Arabi, Islam is love, and love is his religion, for true love can only exist for Allah, and all exists by, for and through Allah.


See also: Shaykh Nuh Keller on Wahdat al-Wujud (Oneness of Being)

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Osmanli Naqshbandi Haqqani dhikr

Sufi Hadra – An alternative view

A few weeks back I posted a video of a Hadra in Damascus, along with a series of quotes that I have seen used as evidence for the permissibility of this action.

Today I came cross Mahdi Lock’s blog in which he has posted an excerpt of Shaykh Ramadan al-Buti’s book ‘Fiqh as-Seerah’ where he offers an alternative view to this practice:

The full statement from his work Fiqh As-Seerah (The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography) as translated by Nancy Roberts and revised by Anas Ar-Rifāʿī (Dar Al-Fikr, Damasus, 2008), p.527-531.

[Sheikh Muḥammad Saʿīd Ramaḍān Al-Būṭī:]

Two: A word on the ḥadīth concerning Abū Bakr and the additions to it which some have fabricated in order to justify a particular heretical practice. As we have seen based on the ḥadīth about Abū Bakr related by Abū Dāwūd and al-Tirmidhī, Abū Bakr brought all of his wealth to the Prophet (pbuh). Then, when the Prophet (pbuh) asked him, “What have you kept for your family?” he replied, “I have kept God and His Apostle.”
An addition to this ḥadīth has been fabricated according to which the Prophet (pbuh) then said to Abu Bakr, “O Abū Bakr, God is pleased with you. Are you pleased with him?” In response, Abū Bakr was so filled with rapture, he got up and danced before the Messenger of God (pbuh) saying, “How could I not be pleased with God?!” Having concocted this addition, its originators then turned it into evidence in support of the legitimacy of dancing and whirling in the dhikr ceremonies for which the Mevlevis and other Sufi sects are known.
As I have mentioned, the evidence upon which this practice is based is a fabrication. There is no ḥadīth, be it sound or weak, which mentions that Abū Bakr got up and danced before the Messenger of God (pbuh). Rather, all we have by way of texts on this subject is the ḥadīth related by al-Tirmidhī, al-Ḥākim, and Abū Dāwūd which, as I noted in my earlier discussion of it, contains possible weaknesses.
As for the conclusion which some Sufis draw based on this fabrication, it must be said that not only is there no support for it, but there is positive evidence against it. Specifically, it is held by the majority of Muslims jurisprudents that when dancing involves bending and swaying back and forth, it is prohibited, and that when it does not involve such movements, it is still undesirable. Hence, to introduce dance – of whatever sort if happens to be – into ceremonies devoted to the remembrance of God is to interpolate into Muslim worship a practice which is, if not utterly banned, at the very least undesirable.
Add this to the fact that the state into which these “worshippers” enter leads them to utter sounds which have nothing to do with the words employed in the remembrance of God. Rather, they are nothing but inarticulate utterances by means of which they produce a steady drone that harmonizes with the rhythms of those chanting and singing and increases the mood of escstatic exhilaration. How can this be the type of remembrance which God has commanded us to engage in, and which was practised by the Apostle (pbuh) and his Companions?! How can activity such as this be worship, when worship – as you are all aware – is what God has legislated for us in the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah, neither of which is to be added to or detracted from?
Rest assured that what we are saying is in accordance with the view which has been held by scholars of Islamic law across the ages, with none disagreeing except for a small minority of dissenters who have established practices for which God has not granted permission. As for the latter, countless are the forbidden acts which they have deemed lawful and the mortal sins which they have committed, at times in the name of ecstatic transport inspired by the love of God, and at other times in the name of liberation from the “noose” of religions obligations.
The following is a quotation form al-ʿIzz Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, one of the most highly esteemed Muslim esteemed leaders and teachers, known and respected for his uprightness, knowledge, piety and Sufi way of life. He states,
As for dancing and applause, these are the acts of thoughtlessness and frivolity the likes of which one generally sees only in girls. No one but the lightheaded or the charlatan would engage in such practices. Why, then, do we see dancing to the rhythm of song by those whose hearts and minds have grown heedless and fickle, even though he (pbuh) has said: “The most virtuous of all generations is my own, followed by those who succeed us, followed by those who succeed them,” and even though not a single member of the righteous generations which we are to emulate engaged in such things?
The same thoughts are expressed by Ibn Hajar in his book, Kaff al-Raʿāʿ ʿan Muḥarramāt al-Lahū wa-al-Samāʿ (“Preventing the Masses from Engaging in Forbidden Acts of Frivolity and Listening”), and by Ibn ʿAbidīn in his well-known, widely recognized commentary, where he distinguishes between a genuine, overwhelming experience of ecstatic transport, and a bogus show of the same.
As for Imam al-Qurṭubī, he goes into even greater detail in warning against this dangerous innovation and the reasons for the prohibition against it; those who wish to read what he says on this matter may refer to his Qurʾānic commentary on the following verses: “…and who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and they lie down to sleep…” (Qurʾān 3:191) and, “And do not walk upon the earth exultantly. Indeed you will never tear the earth (apart), and you will never reach the mountains in height.” (Qurʾān 17:37). Were it not for the fact that it would lead to prolixity on a topic that requires brevity, I would set forth the views expressed on this matter by many other Imams as well. Be that as it may, the position I have expounded here is virtually uncontested, being agreed upon by the vast majority of Muslim scholars, both ancient and contemporary.
It is clear, of course, that the prohibition of dancing being discussed here could not be applied to someone who, while engaged in the remembrance of God, entered a spiritual state in which he was no longer in control of all his feelings or actions. For when a person is in a state such as this, binding judgments such as the one under discussion cease to apply. This fact must be borne in mind when considering statements to the effect that al-ʿIzz Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām himself once went into a frenzy and got up and began jumping about. After all, given that he held the view which we quoted above, how could he have engaged in such behaviour of his own volition?

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