An Introduction to 'Irfan
This short introduction to irfan is a part of the author's book Ashnai ba ulum e
Islami (An Introduction to the Islamic Sciences) written in seven parts, 1) logic, 2)
philosophy, 3) kalam, 4) irfan, 5) fiqh, 6) usul al fiqh, 7) hikmat e amali (ethics).
'Irfan is one of the disciplines that originated within the realm of Islamic culture and
developed there to attain a high level of sophistication. But before we can begin to
discuss 'irfan, we must realize that it can be approached from two viewpoints: the
social and the academic. Unlike the scholars of other Islamic disciplines - such as the
Quranic commentators (mufassirun), the scholars of hadith (muhaddithun), the
jurisprudents (fuqaha'), the theologians (mutakallimun), the philosophers, the men
of literature, and the poets - the 'urafa' are a group of scholars who have not only
developed their own science, 'irfan, producing great scholars and important books,
but have also given rise within the Islamic world to a distinct social grouping. In this
the 'urafa' are unique; for the scholars of the other Islamic disciplines - such as the
jurisprudents, for instance - form solely academic groupings and are not viewed as
a social group distinct from the rest of society.
In view of this distinction the gnostics, when referred to as belonging to a certain
academic discipline, are called 'urafa' and when referred to as a social group are
generally called Sufis (mutasawwifah).
The 'urafa' and sufis are not regarded as forming a separate sect in Islam, nor do
they claim themselves to be such. They are to be found within every Islamic school
and sect, yet, at the same time, they coalesce to form a distinct social group. The
factors that set them apart from the rest of Islamic society are a distinctive chain of
ideas and opinions, a special code governing their social intercourse, dress and
even, sometimes, the way they wear their hair and beards, and their living
communally in their hospices. (Pers. Khaniqah; Ar-ribat, zawiyah; Turk. tekkiye)
Of course, there are and have always been 'urafa' - particularly amongst the Shi'ah -
who bear none of these external signs to distinguish them socially from others; yet,
at the same time, they have been profoundly involved in the spiritual methodology
of 'irfan (sayr wa suluk). It is these who are the real gnostics; not those who have
invented for themselves hundreds of special mannerisms and customs and have
brought innovations into being.
In this series of lectures, in which we are taking a general look at Islamic sciences
and disciplines, we will not be dealing with the social and sectarian aspect of gnosis,
that is to say, tasawwuf (sufism). We will limit ourselves to an examination of 'irfan
as a discipline and branch amongst the branches of Islam's scientific culture. To look
thoroughly at the social aspects of sufism would require us to examine its causes
and origins, the effects - positive and negative, beneficial and detrimental - it has
and has had upon Islamic society, the nature of the relations between the sufis and
other Islamic groups, the hue it has given to the whole of Islamic teachings, and the
role it has played in the diffusion of Islam throughout the world. This is far beyond
the range of these lectures, and here we will consider the tradition of 'irfan only as a
science and as one of the academic disciplines of Islam.
'Irfan, as a scientific and academic discipline, itself has two branches: the practical
and the theoretical. The practical aspect of 'irfan describes and explains the
relationship and responsibilities the human being bears towards itself, towards the
world and towards God. Here, 'irfan is similar to ethics (akhlaq), both of them being
practical sciences. There do exist differences, however, and later we will explain
The practical teaching of 'irfan is also called the itinerary of the spiritual path (sayr
wa suluk; lit. 'traveling and journeying'). Here, the wayfarer (salik) who desires to
reach the goal of the sublime peak of humanness - that is to say, tawhid - is told
where to set off, the ordered stages and stations that he must traverse, the states
and conditions he will undergo at these stations, and the events that will befall him.
Needless to say, all these stages and stations must be passed under the guidance
and supervision of a mature and perfect example of humanity who, having traveled
this path, is aware of the manners and ways of each station. If not, and there is no
perfect human being to guide him on his path, he is in danger of going astray.
The perfect man, the master, who must necessarily accompany the novice on the
spiritual journey according to the 'urafa', has been called in their vocabulary as Ta'ir
al-quds (the Holy Bird) and Khidr:
Accompany my zeal on the path, O Ta'ir al-Quds,
The path to the goal is long, and I new to the journey.
Leave not this stage without the company of Khidr,
There is darkness ahead; be afraid of losing the way.
Of course, there is a world of difference between the tawhid of the 'arif and the
general view of tawhid. For the 'arif, tawhid is the sublime peak of humanness and
the final goal of his spiritual journey, while for the ordinary people, and even the
philosophers, tawhid means the essential Unity of the Necessary Being. For the 'arif,
tawhid means that the ultimate reality is only God, and everything other than God is
mere appearance, not reality. The 'arif's tawhid means that 'other than God there is
nothing'. For the 'arif, tawhid means following a path and arriving at the stage when
he sees nothing but God. However, this view of tawhid is not accepted by the
opponents of the 'urafa', and some of them have declared such a view to be heretic.
Yet the 'urafa' are convinced that this is the only true tawhid, and that the other
stages of it cannot be said to be free of polytheism (shirk).
The 'urafa' do not see the attainment of the ideal stage of tawhid to be the function
of reason and reflection. Rather they consider it to be the work of the heart, and
attained through struggle, through the journeying, and through purifying and
disciplining the self.
This, however, is the practical aspect of 'irfan, which is not unlike ethics in this
respect, for both discuss a series of things that 'ought to be done'. However, there
are differences, and the first of these is that 'irfan discusses the human being's
relationship with itself, with the world and with God, and its primal concern is man's
relationship with God. Systems of ethics, on the other hand, do not all consider it
necessary for the relationship between man and God to be discussed; it is only the
religious ethical systems that give importance and attention to this matter.
The second difference is that the methodology of spiritual progression, sayr wa
suluk, as the words sayr (traveling) and suluk (journeying) imply, is a dynamic one,
while ethics is static. That is, 'irfan speaks about a point of departure, a destination,
and the stages and stations which, in their correct order, the wayfarer must
traverse in order to arrive at the final destination. In the 'arif's view, there really is a
path before the human being - a path that is actual and not in the least a metaphor -
and this path must be followed stage by stage, station by station; to arrive at any
station without having traversed the preceding one is, in the 'arif's view, impossible.
Thus the 'arif views the human soul to be a living organism, like a seedling or like a
child, whose perfection lies in growth and maturation in accordance with a
particular system and order.
In ethics, however, the subjects are handled solely as a series of virtues, such as
righteousness, honesty, sincerity, chastity, generosity, justice, and preferring
others over oneself (ithar), to name but a few, with which the soul must be
adorned. In the view of ethics, the human soul is rather like a house to be furnished
with a series of beautiful objects, pictures and decorations, and no importance is
attached to a particular sequence. It is not important where one begins or where
one ends. It is of no consequence whether one starts at the ceiling or at the walls, at
the top of a wall or at the bottom and so on. On the contrary, in 'irfan the ethical
elements are discussed in a dynamic perspective.
The third difference between these two disciplines is that the spiritual elements of
ethics are limited to concepts and ideas that are generally commonplace, while the
spiritual elements of 'irfan are much more profound and expansive. In the spiritual
methodology of 'irfan, much mention is made of the heart and the states and
happenings it will experience, and these experiences are known only to the
wayfarer of the path during the course of his struggles and his journey on the path,
while other people have no idea of these states and happenings.
The other branch of 'irfan is related to interpretation of being, that is, God, the
universe, and the human being. Here 'irfan resembles philosophy, for both seek to
understand existence, whereas practical 'irfan seeks, like ethics, to change the
human being. However, just as there are differences between practical 'irfan and
ethics, so also there exist differences between theoretical 'irfan and philosophy, and
in the following section we will explain these differences.
Theoretical 'irfan, as said before, is concerned with ontology, and discusses God,
the world, and the human being. This aspect of 'irfan resembles theological
philosophy (falsafeh-ye ilahi), which also seeks to describe being. Like theological
philosophy, 'irfan also defines its subject, essential principles and problems, but
whereas philosophy relies solely upon rational principles for its arguments, 'irfan
bases its deductions on principles discovered through mystic experience (kashf) and
then reverts to the language of reason to explain them.
The rationalistic deductions of philosophy can be likened to studying a passage
written originally in the same language; the arguments of 'irfan, on the other hand,
are like studying something that has been translated from some other language in
which it was originally written. To be more precise, the 'arif wishes to explain those
things which he claims to have witnessed with his heart and his entire being by
using the language of reason.
The ontology of 'irfan is in several ways profoundly different from the ontology of
philosophers. In the philosopher's view, both God and other things have reality,
with the difference that while God is the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud) and
Existing-By-Himself, things other than God are only possible existents (mumkin al-
wujud), existing- through-another, and are effects of the Necessary Being.
However, the 'arif's ontology has no place for things other than God as existing
alongside Him, even if they are effects of which He is the cause; rather, the Divine
Being embraces and encompasses all things. That is to say, all things are names,
qualities, and manifestations of God, not existents alongside Him.
The aim of the philosopher also differs from that of the 'arif. The philosopher
wishes to understand the world; he wishes to form in his mind a correct and
relatively complete picture of the realm of existence. The philosopher considers the
highest mark of human perfection to lie in perceiving, by way of reason, the exact
nature of existence, so that the macrocosm finds a reflection within his mind while
he in turn becomes a rational microcosm. Thus it is said when defining philosophy
that: [Philosophy is] the (final) development of a rational knower ('alim) into an
actual world ('alam).
This means that philosophy is a study whereby a human being becomes a rational
microcosm similar to the actual macrocosm. But the 'arif, on the other hand, would
have nothing to do with reason and understanding; he wishes to reach the very
kernel and reality of existence, God, to become connected to it and witness it.
In the 'arif's view, human perfection does not mean having a picture of the realm of
existence in one's mind; rather it is to return, by means of treading the spiritual path
of progression, to the origin from which one has come, to overcome the separation
of distance between oneself and the Divine Essence, and, in the realm of nearness,
to obliterate one's finite self to abide in Divine Infinitude.
The tools of the philosopher are reason, logic and deduction, while the tools of the
'arif are the heart, spiritual struggle, purification and disciplining of the self, and an
Later, when we come to the world-view of 'irfan, we shall also discuss how it differs
from the world-view of philosophy.
'Irfan, both practical and theoretical, is closely connected with the holy religion of
Islam. Like every other religion - in fact more than any other religion - Islam has
explained the relationships of man with God, with the world, and with himself; and
it has also given attention to describing and explaining existence.
Now, the question inevitably arises here about the relation between the ideas of
'irfan and the teachings of Islam. Of course, the 'urafa' never claim that they have
something to say that is above or beyond Islam, and they are earnest in their
denials of any such imputations. In fact, they claim to have discovered more of the
realities of Islam, and that they are the true Muslims. Whether in the practical
teaching of 'irfan or the theoretical, the 'urafa' always support their views by
referral to the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Imams, and the practice of
the eminent amongst the Prophet's Companions.
However, others have held different views about the 'urafa', and these may be
(a) A group of muhaddithun and jurisprudents has been of the view that the 'urafa'
are not practically bound to Islam, and that their referrals to the Quran and the
Sunnah are merely a ruse to deceive the simple-minded people and to draw to
themselves the hearts of the Muslims. This group is of the view that 'irfan, basically,
has no connection with Islam.
(b) A group of modernists who do not have favourable relations with Islam and are
ready to give a tumultuous welcome to anything that gives the appearance of
freedom from the observances prescribed by the Shari'ah (ibahah) and which can
be interpreted as a movement or uprising in the past against Islam and its laws, like
the first group, believe that in practice the 'urafa' had no faith or belief in Islam, and
that 'irfan and tasawwuf was a movement of the non-Arab peoples against Islam
and the Arabs, disguised under the robes of spirituality.
This group and the first are united in their view that the 'urafa' are opposed to
Islam. The difference between them is that the first group considers Islam to be
sacred and, by banking on the Islamic sentiments of the Muslim masses, wishes to
condemn the 'urafa' and, in this way, to hoot them off from the stage of the Islamic
sciences. The second group, however, by leaning on the great personalities of the
'urafa'- some of whom are of world-renown - wishes to use them as a means of
propaganda against Islam. They detract Islam on the grounds that the subtle and
sublime ideas of 'irfan found in Islamic culture are in fact alien to Islam. They
consider that these elements entered Islamic culture from outside, for, they say,
Islam and its ideas thrive on a far lower level. This group also claims that the 'urafa's
citations of the Quran and hadith were solely due to dissimulation and fear of the
masses. This, they claim, was a means for them to save their lives.
(c) Besides the above two, there is also a third group which takes a rather neutral
view of 'irfan. The view of this group is that 'irfan and sufism contain many
innovations and deviations that do not accord with the Quran and the traditions;
that this is more true of the practical teaching of 'irfan than its theoretical ideas,
especially where it takes a sectarian aspect. Yet, they say, the 'urafa', like the Islamic
scholars of other ranks and the majority of Islamic sects, have had the most sincere
intentions towards Islam, never wishing to make any assertions contrary to its
teachings. It is quite possible that they have made mistakes, in the same way as the
other types of scholars - theologians, philosophers, Quranic commentators, and
jurisprudents - have made mistakes, but this has never been due to an evil intention
In the view of this group, the issue of the 'urafa's supposed opposition to Islam was
raised by those who harbored a special prejudice either against 'irfan or against
Islam. If a person were to disinterestedly study the books of the 'urafa', provided
that he is acquainted with their terminology and language, although he might come
across many a mistake, he will not doubt the sincerity of their complete devotion to
Of the three views, I prefer the third. I do not believe that the 'urafa' have had evil
intentions towards Islam. At the same time I believe that it is necessary for those
having specialized knowledge of 'irfan and of the profound teachings of Islam to
undertake an objective research and disinterested study of the conformity of the
issues of 'irfan with Islamic teachings.
Shari'ah, Tariqah and Haqiqah:
One of the important points of contention between the 'urafa' and the non-'urafa',
especially the jurisprudents, is the particular teaching of 'irfan regarding the
Shari'ah, the Tariqah (the Way) and the Haqiqah (the Reality). Both agree in saying
that the Shari'ah, the body of Islamic laws, is based upon a series of realities and
beneficial objectives. The jurisprudents generally interpret these goals to consist of
certain things that lead the human being to felicity, that is, to the highest possible
level of benefit from God's material and spiritual favors to man. The 'urafa', on the
other hand, believe that all the paths end in God, and that all goals and realities are
merely the means, causes and agencies that impel the human being towards God.
The jurisprudents say only that underlying the laws of the Shariah is a series of
benign objectives, that these objectives constitute the cause and spirit of the
Shari'ah, and that the only way of attaining these objectives is to act in accordance
with the Shari'ah. But the 'urafa' believe that the realities and objectives underlying
the laws of the Shari'ah are of the nature of stations and stages on the human
being's ascent towards God and in the process of man's access to the ultimate
The 'urafa' believe that the esoteric aspect of the Shari'ah is the Way, the Tariqah, at
whose end is the Reality (al-Haqiqah), that is tawhid (in the sense mentioned
earlier), which is a stage acquired after the obliteration of the 'arif's self and his
egoism. Thus the gnostic believes in three things: the Shari'ah, the Tariqah, and the
Haqiqah, and that the Shari'ah is the means to, or the shell of the Tariqah, and the
Tariqah again is the means to or the shell of the kernel of Haqiqah.
We have explained how the jurisprudents view Islam in the lectures on kalam.
They believe that the Islamic teachings can be grouped into three branches. The first
of these is kalam, which deals with the principal doctrines (usul al-'aqa'id). In
matters related to the doctrines it is necessary for the human being to acquire,
through reason, shakeless belief and faith.
The second branch is ethics (akhlaq). It sets forth the instructions about one's duty
in regard to ethical virtues and vices.
The third branch, fiqh, deals with the laws (ahkam), which relate to our external
actions and behavior.
These three branches of Islamic teachings are separate from each other. The branch
of kalam is related to thought and reason; the branch of akhlaq is related to the self,
its faculties and habits; and the branch of fiqh is related to the organs and limbs of
However, on the subject of doctrines, the 'urafa' do not consider merely mental and
rational belief to be sufficient. They claim that whatever is to be believed in must be
arrived at; one must strive to remove the veils between oneself and those realities.
Similarly, with respect to the second branch they do not consider ethics to be
adequate on account of its being static and limited. In place of a philosophical
ethics, they suggest a spiritual methodology (sayr wa suluk) with its particular
Finally, in the third branch, they have no criticisms; only in specific instances do they
express opinions that could, possibly, be taken as being opposed to the laws of fiqh.
These three branches are, therefore, termed by the 'urafa' as Shari'ah, Tariqah, and
Haqiqah. Yet they believe that in exactly the same way as the human being cannot
be divided into three sections, that is, the body, the self, and reason, which are not
separate from each other and form an indivisible whole of which they constitute
inward and outward aspects, so it is with the Shari'ah, the Tariqah, and the
Haqiqah. One is outward shell, another is inward kernel, and the third is the kernel
of the kernel. There is a difference, however, in that the 'urafa' consider the stages
of human existence to be more than three; that is, they believe in a stage that
transcends the domain of reason. God willing, this shall be explained later.
The Origins of Islamic 'Irfan:
In order to understand any discipline or science, it is essential to study its history
and the historical developments associated with it. One must also be acquainted
with the personalities who have originated or inherited it and with its source books.
In this lecture, and the fourth one, we will turn to these matters.
The first issue to arise is whether Islamic 'irfan is a discipline that originated in the
Islamic tradition, such as fiqh, usul al-fiqh, tafsir, and 'ilm al-hadith. That is, is it one
of those disciplines that were originated by the Muslims who, having received in
Islam the original inspiration, sources and raw material, developed them by
discovering their rules and principles? Or is it one of those sciences that found their
way into the Islamic world from outside, like medicine and mathematics, which
were then developed further by the Muslims in the environment of Islamic
civilization and culture? Or is there a third possibility?
The 'urafa' themselves maintain the first of these alternatives, and are in no way
ready to admit any other. Some orientalists, however, have insisted - and some still
insist - on the second view that 'irfan and its subtle and sublime ideas have come
into the Islamic world from outside. Sometimes they maintain a Christian origin for
it, and claim that mysticism in Islam is the result of early contact of the Muslims
with Christian monks. At other times they claim it to be a result of the Persians'
reaction against Islam and the Arabs. Then again sometimes they make it entirely a
product of Neo-Platonism, which itself was composed of the ideas of Plato, Aristotle
and Pythagoras, influenced by Alexandrian gnosticism and the views and beliefs of
Judaism and Christianity. Sometimes they claim it to be derived from Buddhism.
Similarly, the opponents of 'irfan in the Islamic world also strive to show the whole
of 'irfan and sufism as being alien to Islam, and for this purpose they too maintain
that gnosis has non-Islamic origins.
A third view admits that 'irfan, whether practical or theoretical, draws its primary
inspiration and material from Islam itself; having taken this material, it has tried to
give it a structure by devising certain rules and principles and in this process has
also been influenced by external currents, specially the ideas of scholasticism and
philosophy, especially of the Illuminationist school. Now there are a number of
questions which arise in this context. Firstly, to what extent have the 'urafa' been
successful in developing correct rules and principles for structuring their material?
Have the 'urafa' been as successful in carrying this out as the jurisprudents? To
what extent have the 'urafa' felt themselves bound not to deviate from the actual
principles of Islam? And, similarly, to what extent has 'irfan been influenced by the
ideas of outside traditions? Has 'irfan assimilated these external ideas by shaping
them in its particular moulds, and used them in its development? Or, contrarily,
have the waves of these foreign currents carried away 'irfan in their flow?
Each of these questions requires a separate study and careful research. But that
which is certain is that 'irfan has derived its basic sources of inspiration from Islam
itself and from nowhere else. Let us consider this point.
Those who accept the first view, and to some extent also those who take the second
view, see Islam as being a simple religion, popular and unsophisticated, free of all
sorts of mysteries and difficult or unintelligible profundities. To them, the doctrinal
system of Islam rests on tawhid (monotheism), which means that just as a house
has a builder other than itself, so the world has a transcendent Creator other than
itself. Also, the basis of man's relationship with the enjoyments of this world is, in
their view, zuhd (abstinence). In their definition of zuhd, it means refraining from
the ephemeral pleasures of this world in order to attain the everlasting enjoyments
of the Hereafter. Besides these, there are a series of simple and practical rituals and
laws that are handled by fiqh.
Therefore, in this group's view, that which the 'urafa' call tawhid is an idea that goes
beyond the simple monotheism of Islam; for the 'arif's view of tawhid is
existentialist monism in the sense that he believes that nothing exists except God,
His Names, Attributes, and manifestations.
The 'arif's conception of the spiritual path (sayr wa suluk), likewise, they say, also
goes beyond the zuhd enjoined by Islam, for the spiritual path of 'irfan involves a
number of ideas and concepts - such as love of God, annihilation in God, epiphany -
that are not to be found in Islamic piety.
Similarly, the 'arif's concept of the Tariqah goes beyond the Shari'ah of Islam; for
the practice of the Tariqah involves matters unknown to fiqh.
Furthermore, in the view of this group, the pious among the Holy Prophet's
Companions whom the 'urafa' claim to be their precursors were no more than pious
men. Their souls knew nothing of the spiritual path of 'irfan and its tawhid. They
were simple otherworldly people who abstained from worldly pleasures and
directed their attention to the Hereafter and whose souls were dominated by mixed
feelings of fear and hope - fear of the punishment of Hell and hope of the rewards
of Paradise. That is all.
In reality this view can in no way be endorsed. The primal sources of Islam are far
more extensively richer than what this group - out of ignorance or knowingly -
supposes. Neither the Islamic concept of tawhid is as simple and empty as they
suppose, nor Islam limits man's spirituality to a dry piety, nor were the pious
Companions of the Holy Prophet simple ascetics, nor is the Islamic code of conduct
confined to the actions of bodily limbs and organs.
In this lecture, brief evidence will be produced that will suffice to show that Islam's
fundamental teachings are capable of having inspired a chain of profound spiritual
ideas, both in the theoretical and the practical realms of 'irfan. However, the
question of the extent to which the Islamic mystics have used and benefited from
Islam's fundamental teachings and the extent to which they may have deviated, is
one that we cannot go into in these short lectures.
On the subject of tawhid, the Holy Quran never likens God and the creation to a
builder and a house. The Quran identifies God as the Creator of the world, stating at
the same time that His Holy Essence is everywhere and with everything:
Wither so ever you turn, there is the Face of God.... (2:115)
... And We are nearer to him than the jugular vein. (50:16)
He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward; .... (57:3)
Evidently, these kind of verses represent a call to the thinking minds to a conception
of tawhid which goes beyond commonplace monotheism. A tradition of al-Kafi
states that God revealed the opening verses of the Sura al-Hadid and the Sura al-
'Ikhlas because He knew that in future generations there will emerge people who
will think profoundly about tawhid.
As to the spiritual path of 'irfan, in which a series of stages leading to ultimate
nearness to God are conceived, it suffices to take into account the Quranic verses
which mention such notions as liqa 'Allah (meeting with God), ridwan Allah (God's
good pleasure), or those which relate to revelation (wahy), ilham (inspiration), and
the angels' speaking to others who are not prophets - for instance, Mary - and
especially the verses relating to the Holy Prophet's Ascension (mi'raj; 17:1).
In the Quran there is mention of the 'commanding self' (al-nafs al-'ammarah;
12:53), the 'self-accusative self' (al-nafs al-lawwamah; 75:2), and the 'contented
self' (al-nafs al-mutma'innah; 89:27). There is mention of 'acquired knowledge' (al-
'ilm al-'ifadi) and inspired knowledge (al-'ilm al-ladunni; 18:65), and of forms of
guidance resulting from spiritual struggle:
And those who struggle in Us, We will surely guide them to Our paths ... (29:69)
Mention is made in the Quran of the purification of the self, and it is counted as one
of the things leading to salvation and deliverance:
(By the self) ... verily he who purifies it has succeeded, while he who corrupts it has
indeed failed. (91:7-10)
There is also repeated mention there of love of God as a passion above all other
human loves and attractions.
The Quran also speaks about all the particles of creation glorifying and praising God
(17:44), and this is phrased in a way to imply that if one were to perfect his
understanding, he would be able to perceive their praise and magnification of God.
Moreover, the Quran raises the issue of the Divine breath in relation to the nature
and constitution of the human being (32:9).
This, and much more besides, is sufficient to have inspired a comprehensive and
magnificent spirituality regarding God, the world, and man, particularly regarding
his relationship with God.
As previously mentioned, we are not considering how the Muslim 'urafa' have
made use of these resources, or whether their utilization has been correct or
incorrect. We are considering whether there did exist such great resources that
could have provided effective inspiration for 'irfan in the Islamic world. Even if we
suppose that those usually classed as 'urafa' could not make proper use of them,
others who are not classed as such did make use of them.
In addition to the Quran, the traditions, sermons, supplications (du'a'), polemical
dialogues (ihtijajat)* and the biographies of the great figures of Islam, all show that
the spiritual life current in the early days of Islam was not merely a lifeless type of
asceticism blended with a worship performed in the hope of the rewards of
Paradise. Concepts and notions are found in the traditions, sermons, supplications,
and polemical dialogues that stand at a very high level of sublimity. Similarly, the
biographies of the leading personalities of the early days of Islam display many
instances of spiritual ecstasy, visions, occurrences, inner insights, and burning
spiritual love. We will now relate an example of it.
Al-Kafi relates that one morning after performing the dawn prayer, a young man
(Harithah ibn Malik ibn Nu'man al-'Ansari) caught the Prophet's eye. Lean and pale,
his eyes sunken, he gave the impression of being unaware of his own condition and
of being unable to keep his balance. "How are you?" inquired the Prophet . "I have
attained certain faith," the youth replied. "What is the sign of your certainty?" the
To be continued ...
Irfan,'Irfan,Islamic 'Irfan,Introduction,Introduction to 'Irfan,An Introduction to 'Irfan,Theoretical Irfan,Shari'ah, Tariqah and Haqiqah,The Origins of Islamic 'Irfan,'Urafa' of
the Eighth,'Urafa' of the Ninth