Arabic Golden Age

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Excerpt from 'Light of the Dark Ages'

. . .

In the last quarter of the sixth century occurred an event which was destined to change the history not only of Europe, but of the whole world. One summer day in the year 581, a caravan of camels laden with the costly products of southern Arabia appeared in the little town of Busra. The leader of the caravan was accompanied by a boy who was the nephew of the guardian of the Caaba, the sacred Temple of the Arabs in Mecca. The boy’s name was Mohammed. During his stay in Busra Mohammed was entertained in the Nestorian monastery. He had many conversations with the monks and became deeply interested in their religious and philosophical views, particularly in their aversion to idolatry and their revolt against the carnalized Trinity of the orthodox Christian Church. As Mohammed grew to manhood he came more and more under the influence of the Nestorians. Finally he retired to a grotto and gave himself up to meditation. From this silent communication with his own thoughts one conviction was born: the Unity of God. He then left his retreat, determined to devote his whole life to the promulgation of that one truth. By the end of six years he had gained only 1500 converts. But when he departed from Medina on his last pilgrimage to Mecca, he was accompanied by 114,000 followers. The religion of Islam has now approximately 200,000,000 believers.

Like Jesus and the Buddha before him, Mohammed had no intention of founding a new religion. His purpose was to reform Christianity and Judaism, to destroy the sectarianism and idolatry into which these two religions had fallen. For many centuries the Muslims considered their religion merely as an offshoot of Nestorianism. Not until it had become intoxicated with its own success did Islam repudiate the original intentions of its founder and assert itself as a distinct revelation.

There was, however, one striking difference between Christianity and Mohammedanism which appeared at the very beginning of both religions and continued without interruption for many centuries. Where the Christians denounced learning, the Mohammedans encouraged it. Where the Christians destroyed libraries and universities, the Mohammedans built them. Within twenty-five years after the death of Mohammed, intellectual development had become a settled principle in the system of Islam. Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, became a patron of arts and sciences and devoted himself to the pursuit of knowledge. When the seat of government was removed to Baghdad, a new era of intellectual development arose which had ultimately a profound influence on the whole of Europe. The first Khalif of Baghdad was a devoted student of the sciences who established many colleges of medicine and law. When Haroun-al-Raschid (hero of the Arabian Nights) came into power he ordered a school to be attached to every mosque built. He never traveled without his retinue of a hundred scholars. Sir Mark Sykes gives us an illuminating picture of Mohammedan culture under his reign:

The Imperial Court was polished, luxurious and wealthy. Every department of state had a properly regulated and well-ordered public office. Schools and colleges abounded. Philosophers, students, doctors, poets and theologians flocked to Baghdad from all parts of the civilized globe. (The Caliph’s Last Message.)

While the Christians were declaring that the world is flat, the Mohammedans were teaching geography from globes in their common schools. While the Christians were touching “holy relics” in the hope of being cured of their diseases, the Mohammedans were establishing great medical colleges conducted along strictly scientific lines, with rigid entrance requirements. In these colleges physiology and hygiene were studied, and their materia medica was practically the same as ours today. Their surgeons understood the use of anaesthetics and performed some of the most difficult operations known. A description of one of these Arabian hospitals recently published by the American University at Beirut relates that the number of patients admitted often amounted to 4000 daily. Every patient when discharged received a certain sum of money and a suit of clothes. The furniture and bedding in this hospital rivalled the appointments in the palaces of the Khalif and the princes. Efficient service was assured by capable physicians, competent inspectors, educated directors and active servants who attended to all the needs of the sick.

What a contrast between the condition in Mohammedan Arabia and that found in Christian Europe!

. . .

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 12, October, 1937, Pages 532-538

Excerpt from 'The Druzes of Mount Lebanon'

. . .

The contrast between Christian and Mohammedan Europe in the tenth century is worthy of consideration. Spain had been conquered by the Mohammedans in the eighth century, and two hundred years later it had become a veritable Paradise. Every street in the city of Cordova was lighted by public lamps. Seven hundred years later there was not a single street lamp in the city of London. The streets of Cordova were well paved and immaculately clean. Hundreds of years later the streets of Paris became sloughs on rainy days. The sanitary conditions were appalling. Until the beginning of the seventeenth century the streets of Berlin were never swept, and there was a law that every countryman who came to town should take away a load of dirt when he departed from the city.

The palaces of the Mohammedan princes represented the height of luxury and comfort. Six hundred years later the audience chamber of Queen Elizabeth was “covered with hay, after the English fashion,” as one of her chroniclers informs us. The Mohammedan palaces had air-conditioning systems while the Christian Princes warmed themselves with huge fires, the smoke of which escaped through a hole in the roof. The religion of Islam demanded exquisite personal cleanliness while the Christians wore leather garments often remaining unchanged until they fell to pieces. The luxury of a bath was practically unknown. The bodies of great officers of state, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, swarmed with vermin. Certainly no Mohammedan Minister of State would have presented such a condition on the day of his death as did the corpse of Thomas á Becket. Cleanliness was not associated with godliness in those days. As Dr. Andrew D. White, one time President of Cornell University, and later American Ambassador to St. Petersburg and Berlin, writes:

Living in filth was considered by great numbers of holy men as an evidence of sanctity. St. Jerome and the Breviary of the Roman Church dwell with unction on the fact that St. Hilarion lived his whole life long in utter physical uncleanliness. St. Anthony never washed his feet; St. Euphraxia belonged to a convent in which the nuns religiously abstained from bathing. St. Simeon Stylites was in this respect unspeakable. The least that can be said is, that he lived in ordure and stench intolerable to his visitors. (History of Warfare of Science and Theology II, 69.)

The religion of Islam prohibited the use of all intoxicating liquors, while the famous Christian slogan of that day was: As drunk as a Pope!

Although Europe is indebted to its Mohammedan conquerors for many of its physical comforts, its real debt to Islam is intellectual. From the seventh to the thirteenth centuries it was the Arabs and the Jews, and they alone, who kept the torch of knowledge burning. The Mohammedans encouraged intellectual pursuits, allowed freedom of thought and religious liberty, and welcomed all scholars into their midst, irrespective of their religion, color or race.

Theosophists feel particularly grateful to one Mohammedan and one Jew whose efforts in the tenth and eleventh centuries resuscitated the Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophies in Europe and brought the Kabala to the attention of the Western world. The Hermetic philosophy and Alchemy were re-introduced into Europe by Avicenna, the famous pupil of Al-Ferabi. He was born in Bokhara in 937 and at the age of ten he had memorized the entire Koran. At eighteen he was an accomplished physician and philosopher, and at twenty-one he wrote an encyclopedia of all sciences except mathematics. He was equally famed as a geologist and a poet, some of his biographers claiming that it was Avicenna who was the real author of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam. He founded the Graeco-Arabian School of Medicine and his works were still being studied in the European Universities as late as 1650. To this day his portrait adorns the diploma of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Like many other Arab physicians, Avicenna used his knowledge of correspondences (which forms the basis of the Hermetic philosophy) in his treatment of disease. He traced many diseases back to the inner principles, and made a special study of the influences of the mother’s imagination upon the unborn child. He is also said to have possessed the knowledge which allowed him to retain his physical body long beyond the average term of years. The Theosophical Glossary repeats the legend that “owing to his knowledge of the Elixir of Life he still lives as an Adept who will disclose himself to the profane at the end of a certain cycle.”

Ibn Gebirol, known to the Medieval Scholastics as Avicebron, formed an important link in the Neoplatonic succession, since it was through him that Neoplatonism, long exiled, returned to Europe. His parents were Spanish Jews and Ibn Gebirol spoke Arabic and Hebrew with equal facility from his earliest youth. In a poem written in his sixteenth year he declares: “From my youth have I labored in the cause of wisdom, for her goal is joy-engendering.” His writings fall into two classes: (1) his poems, always written in Hebrew for the purpose of expounding Kabalistic doctrines, and (2) his prose, always written in Arabic, containing expressions of Neoplatonic philosophy. He wrote over three hundred poems, some of which have been incorporated into the Liturgy of the Spanish Jews. Of his twenty philosophical works only two remain, the most important being his Fons Vitae, or Fountain of Life. This is written in the form of a dialogue between Master and disciple, and the influence of Plotinus can be traced throughout its pages. In regard to the First Principle, Avicebron wrote: “To ascend to the First Supreme Substance is impossible, but it is possible, though difficult, to ascend to That Which is nearest to this Substance.” (v:55.) The Universe, he says, is an emanation of this First Supreme Substance, which becomes more perceptible to sense as it descends the ladder of being. “The nearer the form is to the First Supreme Substance the more intangible and unapparent it is; while the nearer it is to the corporeal form, the more dense and visible it is.” (v:26.) Like all true philosophers, Avicebron declares that the first object of man’s search should be knowledge: “The knowledge which should above all be sought is the knowledge of himself. At the same time he should seek to know the Final Cause through Which he is, because the existence of man has a Final Cause.” (v:1.)

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THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 1, November, 1937, Pages 4-10

Select Excerpts from Theosophical Glossary


The latinized name of Abu-Ali al Hoséen ben Abdallah Ibn Sina; a Persian philosopher, born 980 AD)., though generally referred to as an Arabian doctor. On account of his surprising learning he was called “the Famous”, and was the author of the best and the first alchemical works known in Europe. All the Spirits of the Elements were subject to him, so says the legend, and it further tells us that owing to his knowledge of the Elixir of Life, he still lives, as an adept who will disclose himself to the profane at the end of a certain cycle.

Gebirol, Solomon Ben Jehudah.

Called in literature Avicebron. An Israelite by birth, a philosopher, poet and Kabbalist, a voluminous writer and a mystic. He was born in the eleventh Century at Malaga (1021), educated at Saragossa, and died at Valencia in 1070, murdered by a Mahommedan. His fellow-religionists called him Salomon the Sephardi, or the Spaniard, and the Arabs, Abu Ayyub Suleiman ben ya’hya Ibn Dgebirol; whilst the scholastics named him Avicebron. (See Myer’s Qabbalah.) Ibn Gebirol was certainly one of the greatest philosophers and scholars of his age. He wrote much in Arabic and most of his MSS. have been preserved. His greatest work appears to be the Megôr Hayyîm, i.e., the Fountain of Life, “one of the earliest exposures of the secrets of the Speculative Kabbalah”, as his biographer informs us. (See “Fons Vitæ”.)

Ibn Gebirol. Solomon Ben Yehudah

A great philosopher and scholar, a Jew by birth, who lived in the eleventh century in Spain. The same as Avicenna (q.v.).

Ar-Abu Nasr-al-Farabi

Called in Latin Alpharabius, a Persian, and the greatest Aristotelian philosopher of the age. He was born in 950 A.D., and is reported to have been murdered in 1047. He was an Hermetic philosopher and possessed the power of hypnotizing through music, making those who heard him play the lute laugh, weep, dance and do what he liked. Some of his works on Hermetic philosophy may be found in the Library of Leyden.

Theosophical Glossary

Eastern Doctrines in the Middle Ages

Eastern Doctrines in the Middle Ages

Ex Oriente Lux! Light comes front the East, not only in its material manifestation as the rising sun. but also spiritually as the all-illuminating sun of Truth. This is one of those universal sayings which have become commonplaces because of their perfect truth. If we take any great truth born in the East, and follow it in its wanderings through Western civilization, it may sometimes disappear for a time, thrown into the shadow by some inimical teaching, but a closer investigation of the facts soon enables us to trace it and follow out its influence. For instance, the Eastern doctrines of the eternity of matter, the impersonality of the highest intelligence, and tl1e union of the higher and lower intellect have appeared again and again in our own Western world of thought, Greece in its days of fame was full of them; Roman civilization, which imposed itself on the half of Europe, was, intellectually considered, but a reflection of Greek culture; and what was the Alexandrian school of Neoplatonists but a fresh outcome of Eastern thought? Christianity itself, in the Erst centuries of its existence, had many an Eastern doctrine, over which we End the Greek and Latin Fathers engaged in endless controversy, for several of these learned and earnest men found it most difficult to accept the Jewish teachings of a creation ex nihilo and of a personal God. Only when the Roman Catholic Church gained the victory over all her enemies and became the supreme religious and secular authority in the West, do the doctrines of the East seem to have been entirely obliterated from Western consciousness. Before much time elapsed, however, they emerged out of the seeming oblivion, upheld by the authority of one of the greatest Greek philosophers of the past, and clothed in the garb of Arabian culture. Here let us pause awhile.

In a work entitled Averroes and Averroism, Ernest Renan, the well-known author of The Life of Jesus, gives us an account of this phase in the history of certain Eastern doctrines, as interpreted and taught by the Arabian philosophers, and from this work the following sketch is drawn.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries were the brightest epoch of Arabian civilization in Spain, and poetry, architecture and philosophy then flourished greatly. Philosophy was, however, less adapted to the peculiar genius ol` the Arabians, and they relied for guidance in their philosophical conceptions upon Aristotle, who had been translated into Arabian by the Nestorians of Syria, and was taught by all the Arabian philosophers, such as Ibn-Zohr, Ibn-Badja, Ibn-Fofail and Ibn-Roschd.

Aboul-Walid. Mo’hamed, Ibn-A’hmed, Ibn-Roschd, whose name was corrupted through the Spanish pronunciation into Averroiés} was born at Cordova in 1126, and was the most celebrated of all. He belonged to one of the best families ol’ Andalusia and occupied high state offices, but his favourite studies were medicine and philosophy, and he owes his fame to his commentaries on Aristotle. It is here important that we should understand that the Arabian philosophers, especially Averroes, although they took Aristotle as the text for their commentaries and looked upon him as their master. created a philosophy in which many elements foreign to Aristotle’s teachings can he found. And the influence of the Alexandrian school clearly traced. Long before Ibn-Roschd’s time Arabian thought was deeply imbued with Neoplatonic views; and, although it must be acknowledged that their philosophers vigorously took up the most important problems of the Peripatetics and sought their solution with great penetration, still the Arabians developed some theories at the expense of others, and so modified to a certain extent the teachings of Aristotle.

The whole of Arabian philosophy, or, better still, the whole of Averroism, can be summed up in these two doctrines: the eternity of matter, and the theory of the intellect.

Philosophy has only two hypotheses to explain the system of the universe: on the one hand, au absolute personal God with attributes of his own, Providence, the causality of the universe centred in God, the human soul substantial and immortal; on the other hand, eternity of matter, evolution of germs through their own innate force, God undefined, laws, nature, necessity, reason, impersonality of the ruling intelligence, ‘immersion and reabsorption of the individual. Arabian philosophy, particularly that of Averroes, comes under the second category. Its favourite theme is the theory of the intellect, which is

divided into five clauses: (1) distinction of the two intellects, active and passive; (2) incorruptibility of the one, corruptibility of the other; (3) conception of the active intellect as outside of man, and as the sun of all intelligence; (4) unity of the active intellect; (5) identity of the active intellect with the last of the wor1d’s intelligences. Of these five clauses the first two belong to Aristotle in full, the third is defined by hint clearly but not unquestionably, and the last two belong entirely to the commentators who thought themselves capable of thus completing the master’s teaching. A summary of these two theories will soon show that, although of Arabian growth, they greatly resemble those of the Alexandrian school. In the words of Renan:

The passive intellect aspires to unite itself with the active. as power aspires after action, matter after Form, and as the flame rushes towards the combustible body. Now this effort does not stop at the first degree of possession, viz., that called the acquired intellect. The soul can arrive at s much more intimate union with the universal intellect—at a sort of identification with primordial reason. The acquired intellect serves to lead man to the door of the sanctuary, but it disappears es soon as the goal is reached. just as sensation prepares the imagination but vanishes when the working of the imagination becomes too intense. Therefore, the active intellect has two distinct actions on the soul, one of which has for its scope the elevating of the material intellect to the perception of the comprehensible, and, the other the drawing of it beyond this perception to a union with the comprehensible itself. Having once entered into this state, man understands all things through the power of this reason which he has appropriated; become like unto God, he is in some way identified with all beings, and knows them as they are; for beings and their cause have no existence outside his knowledge of them. Even the animal creation partakes of this faculty. in so far as it carries in itself the power of arriving at this first state of being. How admirable is this state exclaims Ibn-Roschd, and how strange is this mode of being. Therefore, it is not at the beginning, but at the end of human development that we reach it, when everything in man has changed froth power into action.

Such, adds Renan, is the doctrine of “Union,” or, as the Sufis called it, “the problem of the We and Thou” which forms the basis of all Oriental psychology and is the object that most preoccupies the Arabo-Spanish school.

Ibn-Roschd is the least mystical of all the Arabian philosophers, and proclaims loudly that science alone can bring man to this union. The highest development which man can hope to attain is to carry the human faculties to their apogee. God is reached when, through contemplation, man has pierced the veil of material objects and Ends himself face to face with transcendental truth. Asceticism is vain and useless. The aim of this human life is to ensure the victory of the superior part of the soul over sensation. When this is reached Paradise is attained, whatever may be the religion which we profess. But this happiness is rare and resewed for great men only; it is mostly obtained in old age, by the persevering practice of contemplation and by renouncing everything superstitious, under the condition, however, of not giving up the things necessary to life. Many only taste this joy at the moment of death, for such perfection is in the inverse ratio of bodily perfection. The necessary aptitude for this union is not the same with all men, but there is a sort of election and gratuitous grace attached to it. This theory has a name in the history of philosophy; it is called “Rationalistic Mysticism,” and is the Henosis of the Alexandrian school.

With this belief in the union of the two intellects was intimately associated in the Arabian mind that of the perception of separate substances in Aristotle. The Arabians, as well as later on the Scholastics, understood by this name the separate intelligences, the angels, the spheres, the active intellect. The question to solve was therefore this: Can man arrive at the knowledge of invisible beings through his natural and experimental faculties? Ibn-Roschd answers in the affirmative:

If man could not arrive at the perception of these substances, nature would have laboured in vain, since it would have created the intelligible without the intelligent to understand it.

No philosophy has insisted so strongly as this on the objective existence of the intellect, If the intellect be outside of us. where is it? What is this being who makes its that which we are, and who cooperates more than we do ourselves in the acts of our intellect?

According to Averroes, the “agent-intellect” is a part of the hierarchy of those first principles which govern the stars, and transmit divine action to the universe. Ibn-Roschd does not identify the active intellect with God, although many of the Averroists after hint did so, and separated themselves on this point from their master’s teaching.

It is easy to understand what became of the doctrine of immortality in this system of thought. Man can only partake of immortality according to the degree of his union with the active intellect. As to the doctrine of resurrection, Averroes rejects it entirely, attributing its origin to the earnest wish of religious teachers to increase morality.

He says:

I do not reproach any one for believing that the soul is immortal, but for pretending that the soul is only accidental and that man will take on the same body which has been decomposed. No, he will take another one, like to the first, for that which is dead cannot return to life. Those two bodies are one considered as to their species, but two according to their number.

Orthodox Mohammedanism was never tolerant with respect to philosophy. Ibn-Roschd himself fell for some short time into disgrace and had many enemies. His open declaration that all religions were equally good if they fulfilled their scope of elevating mankind, caused him to be considered as a heretic by the zealous Mohammedans, who were always trembling for the authority of their Koran. This narrow-mindedness prevented Arabian philosophy from being cultivated in countries where the Moslem faith prevailed, and the works of Averroes, as well as those of other Arabian philosophers. ate now mostly to be found in Hebrew translation. The whole Jewish literature of the Middle Ages is lint a reflection of Arabian culture, towards which the Jews felt themselves naturally attracted. Moses Maimonides, the great Hebrew philosopher, shared almost all Ibn-Roschd’s opinions, proclaiming him the supreme authority in philosophy; and it is to the Jews that we owe the first translation of the Great Commentary of Averroes into Latin. After at sojourn in Toledo, Michael Scot, at least so runs the story, brought back a Latin translation of this important work to Italy. He was received with open arms by Frederic II, Hohenstaufen, King of the Two Sicilies, who had, as is well known, a great predilection for Arabian culture; and it is thanks to his influence that the other works of Averroes were translated into Latin and spread all over Italy, where they were soon taken up by the Scholastics and became a subject of violent controversy.

Averroes plays a two-fold part in Scholasticism. On the one hand he is the author of the Great Commentary, the most learned interpreter of Aristotle, the trustworthy guide respected even by those who reject his teaching. On the other hand, he is looked upon as the blasphemer of religion, the father of all unbelievers, the greatest of heretics: and it is most extraordinary to notice how in the Middle Ages it was found quite natural to take lessons in philosophy from a master who from the religions point of view was ever liable to condemnation as heterodox.

The two great centres of Averroism in the thirteenth century were the University of Paris and the Franciscan Order; its greatest enemies the Dominicans, who represented strict orthodoxy in the Roman Church, and whose celebrated advocate, St. Thomas, the “angelic doctor,” wrote a treatise, Contra Averroistas. Oxford was another centre of Franciscan thought, where we cannot fail to see the influence of Averroes. Roger Bacon in his Opus Majus writes:

The human soul is of itself incapable of knowledge. Philosophy is the result of an external divine light. The active intellect, which is the rudiment of this light is not a part of the soul, but a substance separated from the soul, as the artizan is separated from the matter on which he works, light from colour, the pilot from his boat.

And in another passage:

The philosophy of Averroes, which has been long rejected and condemned by the most celebrated doctors, has obtained to-day the unanimous approbation of the wise.

Duns Scotus and Occam both side with Averroes on all important points. The school of mysticism itself which has so many analogies with the Franciscan teaching, makes a frequent use of the Arabian psychology. The German mystics of the fourteenth century, Meister Eckhart especially, often use the hypothesis of the active and passive intellect as a demonstration of the theory of union with God. In an essay of that school, written in German on the intellect active and passive, Averroes (Arverios) and Aristotle (Herr Steotiles) are quoted as weighty authorities.

The revival of Greek letters in Italy, which took place at the end of the Eighteenth century, put an end to Averroism. The Greek philosophers were read and studied in the original, and the Arabian commentators were henceforth considered as barbarous and unworthy translators of Aristotle. But in the University of Padua, in which the Arabian school of medicine reigned supreme, the teaching of Averroes was kept tip systematically until the middle of the seventeenth century, and his name remained a watch-word for all freethinkers in the north of Italy. The final extinction of Averroism can be considered from two different points of view. On one side it represents the triumph of the rational scientific method; on the other, tl1e victory of narrow-minded orthodoxy. In the second half of the seventeenth century all intellectual activity disappears in Italy together with Arabian peripateticism.

Such is the rough outline of Averroism which may be considered as the introduction of Eastern doctrines into dogmatic Christianity, through the agency of Arabian culture. These doctrines did their work, and disappeared with the garb they had assumed but modern philosophy, which took the place of Scholasticism, upheld many of them, until it was given as a privilege to the nineteenth century to open the East to earnest students, and thus to enable the West to study Truth at its original source.

The sun has risen again once more. May its day be long, its light shine brightly!

G. H.

Lucifer, 1894



Or Theosophy From the Standpoint of Mohammedanism
A Chapter from a MS. work designed as a textbook for Students in Mysticism.
By C. H. A. Bjerregaard

In Two Parts: Part I, Texts; Part II, Symbols.

The spirit of Sufism is best expressed in the couplet of Katebi:
“Last night a nightingale sung his song, perched on a high cypress, when the rose, on hearing his plaintive warbling, shed tears in the garden, soft as the dews of heaven.”


Sufism has not yet received fair treatment in any publication that has appeared in Western literature.

The reason is that no Western writer upon the subject has endeavored to understand it, either because of an intellectual bias or from willful perversion. Most treatises are written under strong dogmatic prejudices, or by persons intellectually and morally incapable of rising to the A B C of a spiritual philosophy.

The present attempt to represent the doctrines and practices of Sufism has been made in the hope of overcoming the effect of these evils. We have studied patiently Sufism from Sufi works and claim to be in full sympathy with our subject.

That which we here present to the judgment of the candid reader is a part of a larger work we have been engaged on for many years; a work designed as a text book for students in Mysticism. This fact, the intention of making a text book for reference on all mystic questions, will account for the unusual method adopted in this series of articles.

In the first part we shall give a resume of Sufi doctrine with copious quotations from Sufi works. In the second we shall give a full exposition of Sufi practices and symbols.

The following is a partial list of works consulted and quoted without further reference:

Tholuck, Sufismus, sive theosophia persarum — Tholuck, Bluthensamm-lung der morgenl Mystik — Malcolm, Hist. of Persia — Trans. of the lit. soc. of Bombay, vol. I, art. by Capt. Graham — J. von Hammer, Geschichte der Schonen Redekunste Persiens, mit einer Bluthenlese — Garcin de Tassy, la poesie phil. et rel. chez les Persans, in Rev. cont. 1856 — Fleischer, uber die farbigen Lichterscheinungen der Sufis, in Zeitsh. f. morgl. Geselsch. vol. 16 — G. P. Brown, The Dervishes, or Oriental Spiritualism — Journal of Am. Orient. Soc., vol. 8 — The Dabistan, or school of sects — E. H. Palmer, Oriental Mysticism — Persian Poetry by S. Robinson — Th. P. Hughes, Dict. of Islam — Ousely, Biographical notices of Persian poets — Omar Khayyam, see ed. illust. by Vedder — Al Gazzali, la perle precieuse, par L Gautier — Allegories recits poetiques traduit de l’arabe, du persan &c., par Garcin de Tassy — Al Gazzali, Alchemy of Happiness tr. by H. A. Homes — Hammer-Purgstall, Literatur-Geschichte der Araber — The works of Nizami, Saadi, Attar, Jellalladin Rumi, Hafiz, Jami, Hatifi, &c., in English, French, German and Latin translations — Lane’s transl. of the Quran — &c., &c.

Part I — Texts


It is generally conceded among the Sufis that one of the great founders of their system, as found in Islam, was the adopted son and son-in-law of the Prophet, Ali-ibn-Abi-Talib. But it is also admitted that their religious system has always existed in the world, prior to Mohammed. It is known that a tribe, Sufah, from whom possibly the name is derived, in “the time of ignorance” separated themselves from the world and devoted themselves to spiritual exercises like those of the present Sufis.

Sufism in its best known forms must thus be considered to be the philosophy of Mohammedanism and to represent the protest of the human soul against the formalism and barrenness of the letter of the Quran. Still there is much in favor of Schmokler’s assertion (Essai sur les ecoles philos. chez les Arabes) that Sufism is neither a philosophical system nor the creed of a religious sect, but simply a way of living.

Perhaps the simplest statement is this: Sufism is Theosophy from the standpoint of Mohammedanism.

Said-Abul-Chair (about A. D. 820) is often called the author of Sufism. Abu Hashem (A. D. 767) has been called the first Sufi.

The Dabistan maintains the identity of the pure Sufis and that of Platonism and it has popularly been supposed that Sufism has borrowed very much from the Vedanta and from Plato and Aristotle; it has even been confidently asserted that the similarity is so striking to the student, that it is a most easy matter to find identical statements in either of them. We must confess that our study does not prove the assertion. The similarity is to be accounted for by the universality of truth.


The root of the word implies wisdom, the Greek Sophia, purity, spirituality, etc. Some have connected it with suf, wool, on account of the woolen garment worn by the devotees.

Graham 1 maintains that “any person or a person of any religion or sect, may be a Sufi. The mystery lies in this: a total disengagement of the mind from all temporal concerns and worldly pursuits; an entire throwing off not only of every superstition, doubt, or the like, but of the practical mode of worship, ceremonies, etc., laid down in every religion, which the Mohammedans term Sheriat, being the law, or canonical law; and entertaining solely mental abstraction, and contemplation of the soul and Deity, their affinity, etc.” In short, Sufism may be termed the religion of the heart, as opposed to formalism and ritualism.

“Traces of the Sufi doctrine exist in some shape or other in every region of the world. It is to be found in the most splendid theogonies of the ancient school of Greece and of the modern philosphers of Europe. It is the dream of the most ignorant and the most learned, and is seen at one time indulging in the shade of ease, at another traversing the pathless desert.” (Malcolm Hist. of Persia.)

Abu-Said-Abul-Chair, the accredited founder of Sufism, when asked what Sufism was, answered: “What you have in the head, give it up; what you have in the hand, throw it away; whatever may meet you, depart not from it.”

Dschuneid, a Sufi Shaikh, thus defined Sufism: “To liberate the mind from the violence of the passions, to put off nature’s claims, to extirpate human nature, to repress the sensual instinct, to acquire spiritual qualities, to be elevated through an understanding of wisdom, and to practice that which is good — that is the aim of Sufism.”

Abul Hussein Nuri thus expressed himself: “Sufism is neither precept nor doctrine, but something inborn. If it were a precept, it could be followed; if it were a doctrine, it could be learned; it is rather something inborn — and as the Quran says: ‘Ye are created in the image of God.’ Evidently no one can, either by application or by teaching, possess himself of the likeness of God.”


The Deity alone IS and permeates all things. All visible and invisible things are an emanation from Deity, and are not absolutely distinct from it.

One sect “the Unionists,” believe that God is as one with every enlightened being. They compare the Almighty to a flame, and their souls to charcoal; and say, that in the same manner that charcoal when it meets flame, becomes flame, the immortal part, from its union with God becomes God.

According to the Dabistan, the presence of the universal Deity is fivefold. The first is the presence of “the absolute mystery.” The absolute mystery is one with “the invariable prototypes” (or realities of things). The second is the presence of “the relative mystery,” and this belongs to pure intellects and spirits. The third is the presence of “the mysterious relation,” which is nearest to the absolute evidence: this is the world of similitude or dream. The fourth is the presence of the “absolute evidence” which reaches from the center of the earth to the middle of the ninth empyrean heaven. The fifth is “the presence of the rest,” and this is the universe in an extensive, and mankind in a restricted acceptation.

Silvestre de Sacy gives the following explanation to the above from Jorjani. The five divine presences are (1) the presence of the absolute absence (or mystery); its world is the world of the fixed substances in the scientific presence. To the presence of the absolute mystery is opposed: (2) the presence of the absolute assistance; it is the world of the throne or seat of God, of the four elemental natures. (3) The presence of the relative absence; this is divided into two parts: The one nearer the presence of the absolute mystery; the world of which is that of spirits, which belong to what is called intelligences and bare souls: the other: (4) Nearer the presence of the absolute assistance: the world of which is that of models (images). (5) The presence which comprises the four preceding ones, and its world is the world of mankind, a world which reunites all the worlds, and all they contain.


There is no absolute difference between Good and Evil; all that exists, exists in unity and God is the real author of all the acts of mankind.

The Sufi says that evil only came into the world through ignorance, and that ignorance is the cause of error and disunion among men. The following tale answers to the point: “Four travelers — a Turk, an Arab, a Persian, and a Greek, having met together, decided to take their meal in common, and as each one had but ten paras, they consulted together as to what should be purchased with the money. The first said Uzum, the second Ineb, the third decided in favor of Inghur, and the fourth insisted upon Stafilion. On this a dispute arose between them and they were about to come to blows, when a peasant passing by happened to know all four of their tongues, and brought them a basket of grapes. They now found out, greatly to their astonishment, that each one had what he desired.”

They believe the emanating principle, proceeding from God, can do nothing without His will and can refrain from nothing that He wills. Some of them deny the existence of evil on the ground that nothing but good can come from God.

The Dabistan: One sect, “the Eternals,” conceive that man is taught his duty by a mysterious order of priesthood, 2 whose number and ranks are fixed, and who rise in gradation from the lowest paths to the sublimest height of divine knowledge.

Another sect, “the Enlightened,” teach that men’s actions should neither proceed from fear of punishment nor the hope of reward, but from innate love of virtue, and detestation of vice.


The soul existed, before the body and is confined in it like in a cage. To the Sufi, death is liberation and return to the Deity.

The soul is confined in a body (metempsychosis) to be purified, to fulfill its destination, the union with Deity.

Without the grace of God (Fazlu allah) no soul can attain this union, but God’s grace can be obtained by fervently asking for it.

The soul of man is of God, not from God, an exile from Him; it lives in the body as in a prison and banishment from God. Before its exile the soul saw Truth, but here it only has glimpses “to awaken the slumbering memory of the past.” The object of all Sufi teaching is to lead the soul onward by degrees to reach that stage again.

“You say ‘the sea and the waves,’ but in that remark you do not believe that you signify distinct objects, for the sea when it heaves produces waves, and the waves when they settle down again become sea; in the same manner men are the waves of God, and after death return to His bosom. Or, you trace with ink upon paper the letters of the alphabet, a, b, c; but these letters are not distinct from the ink which enabled you to write them; in the same manner the creation is the alphabet of God, and is lost in Him.”


are matters of indifference; still they serve as stepping-stones to realities. Some are more useful than others, among which is al-Islam, of which Sufism is the true philosophy.


The world is life and intellect, as far as the mineral kingdom; but the manifestation of intellect in everybody is determined by the temperature of the human constitution. Sometimes beauty attains an excellence which is uttered with ecstasy, and becomes a modulation more powerful than that which strikes the ear; and this is the work of the prophet.


The main duty of this life is Meditation on the Unity of Deity (wahdaniyah), the Remembrance of God’s Name (Zikr), and Progression in the Tarigah (the Path, the Journey of Life).

Human life is a journey (safar) and the seekers after God are travellers (salik). Perfect knowledge (marifah) of Deity as diffused throughout creation is the purpose of the journey. Sufism is the guide, and the end of the journey, is Union with God.

The natural state of every human being is nasut. In this slate the disciple cannot yet observe the Law (shariat). This is the lowest form of spiritual existence.

The states in the Tarigah are the following:

The first state is called Shariat — the state of law or method. The student’s passions are in this degree checked by a rigid observance of ritual, &c., whereby he learns human nature and to respect order and finds out for himself the rudiments of a knowledge of God.

The second state is Tureequt or the way, or road. This state implies mental or spiritual worship, abstracted totally from the above. The student learns to see the propaedeutic nature of ceremonies and devotes himself to realities. At this stage the ascetic exercises begin and he holds communion with Melkut or the angelic world.

The third state, Huqeequt, or the state of truth is the state of inspiration or greater natural knowledge. The Sufi now lives no more in faith but in subjective truth and spiritual power; he has seen the similarity of God’s nature and his own; all antinomies are destroyed, even sin disappears from his reflections.

The fourth and last state is Marifut or union of spirit and soul with God. “Union (with God) is reality, or the state, truth and perception of things, when there is neither lord nor servant.” Still “the man of God is not God; but he is not separate from God.” At this stage man’s “corporeal veil will be removed, and his emancipated soul will mix again with the glorious essence, from which it had been separated, though not divided.” 3

Aziz Ibn Muhammad Nafasi in a book called al-Maqsadul-Aqsa or the “Remotest Aim,” (trans, in E. H. Palmer’s Oriental Mysticism) marks out the journey a little differently from that already described.

When a man possessing the necessary requirements of fully developed reasoning powers turns to them for a resolution of his doubts and uncertainties concerning the real nature of the Godhead, he is called a talib “a searcher after God.”

If he has further desire for progress he is called a “murid” or “one who inclines,” and he places himself under the instruction and guidance of a teacher and becomes a “traveller.”

The first stage of his journey is called “ubudiyah” or “service” and is as described above.

The second stage is ishq or “love.” He loves God. The divine love filling his heart, it expels all other loves and brings him to the third stage, Zuhd or “seclusion.” He occupies himself exclusively with contemplation of God and his attributes, and comes to the fourth state, Marifah or “knowledge.”

When settled he is come to the fifth stage, wajd or “ecstasy” he now receives revelations and soon reaches the sixth stage, that of hagigah or “truth” and proceeds to the final state, that of “wasl,” or “union with God.”

He has now finished the journey and remains in the state he has come to, still going on, however, progressing in depth of understanding. Finally he comes to “the total absorption into Deity.”

The Zikr, or ecstastic exercises belonging to the training on this journey, will be explained in our second part: Symbols.


The first degree consists of penitence, obedience, and meditation, and in this degree the light is, as it were, green.

The second degree is the purity of the Spirit from satanic qualities, violence, and brutality, because as long as the spirit is the slave of satanic qualities, it is subject to concupiscence, and this is the quality of fire. In this state Iblis evinces his strength, and when the spirit is liberated from this, it is distressed with the quality of fierceness, which may be said to be flashing and this is conformable to the property of wind. Then it becomes insatiable (lit. eager after anything to excess), and this is similar to water. After this it obtains quietness, and this quality resembles earth (i.e., apathy or cessation from all action). In the degree of repose, the light is as it were, blue, and the utmost reach of one’s progress is the earthly dominion.

The third degree is the manifestation of the heart, by laudable qualities, which is similar to red light, and the utmost reach of its progress is the middle of the upper dominion; and in this station the heart praises God, and sees the light of worship and spiritual qualities.

The fourth degree is the applying of the constitution to nothing else but to God and this is similar to yellow light, and the utmost reach of its progress is the midst of the heavenly Malkat “dominion.”

The fifth degree of the soul is that which resembles white light, and the utmost aim of its progress is the extreme heavenly dominion.

The sixth degree is the hidden, which is like a black light, and the utmost reach of its progress is “the world of power.”

The seventh degree is “the evanescence of evanescence,” which is annihilation ” and ”eternal life,” and is colorless. It is absorption in God, non-existence and effacement of the imaginary in the true being, like the loss of a drop of water in the ocean. It is eternal life as the union of the drop with the sea. “Annihilation” is not to be taken in the common acceptation, but in a higher sense, “annihilation in God.”


The Sufis inculcate the doctrine, “Adore the Deity in his creatures.” It is said in a verse of the Quran — “It is not given to man that the Deity should speak to him; if it does so it is by inspirations, or through a veil.” Thus all the efforts of man should tend to raise the veil of divine love and to the annihilation of the individuality which separates him from the Divine essence; and this expression “raise up the veil” has remained in the language of the East as expressive of great intimacy.

One of the most violent and able of the enemies of the Sufis, says that they deem everything in the world a type of the beauty and power of the Deity and adds that it appears from both their actions and writings, that it is in the red cheeks of beautiful damsels that they contemplate its beauty; and in the “impious” daring of Nimrod and of Pharaoh, that they see and admire the omnipotence of its power. 5

The Persian commentator Suruni says in regard to sexual love: “the beauty of the wife is a ray from God and not from the beloved herself. The Mystic recognizes the fact of the divine beauty everywhere in creation, and loves because he in beauty sees a revelation of the blessings of the divine name. It is therefore the prophet says he prefers these three things to all others: women, incense, and enjoyments.”

Jellaladdin Rumi said: “They (the Sufis) profess eager desire, but with no carnal affection, and circulate the cup, but no material goblet: since all things are spiritual, all is mystery within mystery.”

Jami exclaims, addressing the Deity:

Sometimes the wine, sometimes the cup we call Thee!
Sometimes the lure, sometimes the net we call Thee!
Except Thy name, there is not a letter on the tablet of the universe:
Say, by what name shall we call Thee?

Nizami explains himself:

Think not that when I praise wine I mean the juice of the grape;
I mean that wine which raiseth me above self,
“My cup-bearer” is to perform my vow to God:
“My morning draught from the tavern” is the wine of self oblivion.
* * * * * * * *
My heaven so long as I have enjoyed existence.
Never hath the tip of my lip been stained with wine!

In regard to Hafis it is maintained that by wine he invariably means devotion; and his admirers have gone so far as to compose a dictionary of words of the language, as they call it, of the Sufis. In that vocabulary sleep is explained by meditation on the divine perfections, and perfume by hope of divine favor; gales (i.e. Zephyrs) are illapses of grace; kisses and embraces, the raptures of piety; idolators, infidels, and libertines are men of the purest religion, and their idol is the creator himself: the tavern is the cell where the searcher after truth becomes intoxicated with the wine of divine love. Read with this key to the esoteric meaning, Mr. Clouston says, the gazelles of Hafis are no longer anacreontic and bacchanalian effusions, but ecstatic lucubrations on the love of man to his creator. The keeper, or wine seller, the spiritual instructor: beauty denotes the perfection of the supreme being; tresses and curls are the expansion and infiniteness of his glory; lips, the hidden and inscrutable mysteries of his essence; down on the cheek, the world of spirits, who encircle the creator’s throne; and a black mole is the point of indivisible unity; lastly, wantonness, mirth and ebriety, mean religious ardor, ecstasy and abstraction from all terrestrial thoughts and contempt for all worldly things.

Mohemmed Missiree: On the Tesavuf, or spiritual life of the Sufis. Translated from the Turkish by John P. Brown, Esq., of the American embassy at Constantinople. (In Journ. of Am. Orient. Soc. vol. viii.):

What is the beginning of at-Tesavuf? Faith, which has six pillars, namely: (1) Belief in God, (2) in His Angels, (3) in His Books, (4) in His Prophets, (5) and in the Last Day, and (6) in His decree of Good and Evil. What is the result of the Tesavuf? It is not only the reciting with the tongue of these pillars of faith but also establishing them in the heart. What is the distinction between a Sufi and an ordinary person? The knowledge of an ordinary person is a “counterfeit faith” whereas that of the Sufi is “true faith” What do you mean by “counterfeit faith?” It is that which an ordinary person has derived from his forefathers, or from the teachers and preachers of his own day, without knowing why it is essential that a man should believe in these six articles for his soul’s salvation. What is the proof of faith? The proof of faith consists in a search being made for the true origin of each of these six pillars of faith, until the enquirer arrives at “the Truth.” The Sufis regard certain things as lawful which are forbidden. For instance, they enjoin the use of wine, wine-shops, the wine-cup, sweethearts; they speak of the curls of their mistresses, and the moles on their faces, cheeks, &c. and compare the furrows on their brows to verses of the Quran. What does this mean? The Sufis often exchange the external features of all things for the internal, the corporeal for the spiritual, and thus give an imaginary signification to outward forms. They behold objects of a precious nature in their natural character and for this reason the greater part of their words have a spiritual and figurative meaning. For instance, when, like Hafis, they mention wine, they mean a knowledge of God, which, figuratively considered, is the love of God. Wine, viewed figuratively, is also love; love and affection are here the same thing. The wine-shop, with them, means “spiritual director,” for his heart is said to be the depository of the love of God. The sweetheart means the excellent preceptor, because, when anyone sees his beloved, he admires her perfect proportions, with a heart full of love. As the lover delights in the presence of his sweetheart, so the Salik rejoices in the company of his beloved preceptor. The sweetheart is the object of a worldly affection, but the preceptor of a spiritual attachment. The curls or ringlets of the beloved are the grateful praises of the preceptor, tending to bind the affections of the disciple; the moles on her face signify that when the pupil, at times, beholds the total absence of all worldly wants on the part of the preceptor, he also abandons all the desires of both worlds — he perhaps even goes so far as to desire nothing else in life than his preceptor; the furrows on the brow of the beloved one, which they compare to verses of the Quran, mean the light of the heart of the preceptor; they are compared to verses of the Quran, because the attributes of God, in accordance with the injunction of the Prophet, “Be ye endued with divine qualities,” are possessed by the preceptor.


MOTTO: “Highest nature wills the capture; “Light to light!” the instinct cries;
And in agonizing rapture falls the moth, and bravely dies.
Think not what thou art, Believer; think but what thou mayest become
For the World is thy deceiver, and the Light thy only home.” — (Palm Leaves.)

ABULFAZL (A.D. 1595):

O Lord, whose secrets are for ever veiled,
And whose perfection knows not a beginning!
End and beginning both are lost in thee;
No trace of them is found in thy eternal realm.
My words are lame; my tongue, a stony tract;
Slow wings my foot, and wide is the expanse.
Confused are my thoughts; but this is thy best praise —
In ecstasy alone I see thee face to face!


What advice, O Musselmans? I don’t know myself; I 6 am neither Christian nor Jew, nor am I a fire-worshipper nor Musselman.
I am not from the East or West, nor am I of land or fire.
I am not from the country of Iran, nor am I from the land of Khoorassan.
I am neither of water nor air, nor am I of fire or earth.
I am not of Adam or Eve, nor am I of the inhabitants of paradise.
My place is no place, my sign is without sign:
I have neither body nor soul, — what is there then? I am the soul of my Beloved. 7
When I took out my heart, the two worlds I saw as one. He is the first, he is the last, he is the manifest, He is the secret.
Except Him, and that I am Him, I do not know anything else.
O thou, Shems Tebreez, why this rapture in this world?
Except with rapture, and enthusiastic ardour, this work cannot be effected.


All the earth I’d wandered over, seeking still the beacon light.
Never tarried in the day time, never sought repose at night;
Till I heard a reverend preacher all the mystery declare,
Then I looked within my bosom, and ’twas shinning brightly there.
— (E. H. Palmer, Orient. Myst.)

Who so knoweth himself, knoweth the Godhead. — Thy soul is the sufficient proof of the existence of the Godhead: When by reflection thou hast penetrated to that deep within, thou shalt discover there the Universal Worker of his work. — (D’HerbelotPersian Paraphrases.

Wouldst know where I found the Supreme? One step beyond self. — Behind the veil of self shines unseen the beauty of the Beloved. — (Aphorisms.)

Soul of the soul! Neither thought nor reason comprehend thy essence, and no one knows thy attributes. Souls have no idea of thy being. The prophets themselves sink into the dust before thee. Although intellect exists by thee, has it ever found the path of thy existence? Thou art the interior and the exterior of the soul. — (Attar.)

They who see God are ever rapt in ecstacy. * * * (The Mesnevi.)


The varied pictures I have drawn on space,
Behold what fair and goodly sights they seem;
One glimpse I gave them of my glorious face,
And lo! ’tis now the universal theme.
— (E. H. Palmer, Orient. Myst.)

Recognize the mark of Deity in every place, and never place the foot without its own limit. The world is the image of the Godhead. — (Buslami.)


— The widow Rabia8 is reported having said “an interior wound consumes my heart; it can only be cured by communion with a friend. 9 I shall remain sick till the day of judgment when I shall reach my end. —

— It is told of Rabia that once when requested to marry, she answered: My being has for a long time been in marital communion; hence I say that my ego is long ago lost in itself and arisen again in Him (in God); since then I am entirely in His power, yea, I am He. He, who would ask me for a bride, would ask me, not from myself, but from Him (God). Hassan Basri (a famous Mohamedan Theologian) asked her how she had reached this state. She answered: In this way, everything which I had found I lost again in Him (God). When questioned as to by which mode she knew Him, she made answer: O, Hassan, you know Him by certain methods and means, I know Him without modes and means. —

Ibn Chali Kan tells about Rabia that she often in the middle of the night went up upon the roof and in her loneness cried out: O, my God! Now is silenced the noise of the day, and the lover enjoys the night with the beloved, but I enjoy myself in my loneness with Thee; Thou art my true lover. —

— It is told of her that once while journeying to Mecca on seeing the Kaaba she exclaimed: What is the Kaaba to me? I need the Lord of the Kaaba! I am so near God that I apply to myself his words: He who approaches me by an inch, him I approach by a yard. What is the Kaaba to me? —

Feri’d Eddin Attar tells about her, that she, once while crossing the fields, cried out: Deep longing after God has taken posession of me! True, Thou art both earth and stone, but I yearn to behold Thee, Thyself. The high God spoke to her in her heart, without a medium: O, Rabia! Do you not know that once when Muses requested to see God, only a grain fell from the sun and he collapsed: Be satisfied with my name! —

— Once asked if she beheld God while worshipping Him. “Assuredly,” said she, “I behold Him, for Whom I cannot see, I cannot worship.” —

— Once when Rabia was sick three famous Theologians called upon her, namely Hassan Basri, Malik Dinar, and Schakik Balchi. Hassan said: The prayers of that man are not sincere who refuses to bear the Lord’s chastisements. Schakik added to that: He is not sincere who does not rejoice in the Lord’s chastisements. But Rabia, who detected selfish joy even in those words, replied: He is not sincere in his prayers, who does not, when he beholds his Lord, forget entirely that he is being chastised. —

— On one occasion Rabia was questioned concerning the cause of an illness and replied: I allowed myself to think on the delights of paradise, therefore my Lord has punished me. —


Munsoor Halaj attained victory of the body, by incessant prayer and contemplation. He used to say “I am the Truth.”

The following story is told of him. He observed his sister go out frequently at night, and wondering what it meant, he resolved to watch her and see where she went. He did so and found that she went to a company of celestial spirits, who gave her of their nectar or immortal beverage. Thinking that a drop might be left in the cup after his sister had drank from it, he took hold of it and did, much against her warning, get a drop of the divine fluid. Ever afterwards he went about exclaiming “I am the Truth!” This was too much for the observers of the canonical law and they sentenced him to be impaled alive. When they came to take him, he told them, that he did not fear them, they could do him no harm, and when they were putting him on the stake, he disappeared from them and appeared in a sitting posture in the air at a small distance over the stake. This was repeated several times. His spirit ascended to heaven and asked the Prophet if it be right that he should suffer. The Prophet advised him to suffer, otherwise there would be an end to formal religion. On this Munsoor Halaj’s spirit descended and permitted the body to take the course of nature. When about to be impaled, he called a disciple of his, told him the secret and that his voice, “I am the Truth” would be heard, when they after burning him, should throw his ashes into the sea; and that the sea would rise and overflow all the land, if they did not take his godhra 11 and place it on the rising-waves. It so all happened. —

A Sufi poet has explained the cause of Munsoor’s death, to lie in the fact, that he revealed a mystery.

Of Shems Tebreez the following story is told. He raised a King’s only son from death by throwing his mantle over him and ordering him “Rise by my order.” For this he was summoned before the ecclesiastical court and sentenced to be flayed alive. When the sentence came to be executed, no knives could cut him, his body was invulnerable. It is related, that he ascended in spirit to heaven and the Prophet directed him to undergo his punishment, which he subsequently did. He directed the doctors of Law, himself, how to begin to cut the skin from his feet, or rather made the incision himself. When they had thus flayed him, he requested his own skin, be given to him as the letter of the law was fulfilled, and they gave it to him. Of this he made his Khirqeh or derwish’s habit, threw it over his shoulders, and went away.

After that the doctors of law ordered everybody to give him nothing to eat, drink, etc. He thus remained for some days without food, etc. At last he found a dead ox and cut out a piece, but as no one dared give him fire, he ordered the sun to descend from the firmament and come nearer to broil his meat. The sun obeyed — but the prince and people fearing the consequences implored him to relieve their sufferings by ordering the sun to return to its station. He granted their request.


Al-Ghazzali (Abu Hamid Muhammed ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ghazzali.) surnamed Hajjatu ‘l-Islam (“the proof of Islam”). He was born at Tus A.D. 1058 and died A.D. 1111. —

The following are his own words: “I said to myself: the aim of my life is simply to know the truth of things; therefore I must ascertain what knowledge is. * * I then said to myself the only hope of acquiring incontestable convictions is by the perceptions of the senses and by necessary truths. Their evidence seemed to me to be indubitable. I soon began to examine the objects of sensation and speculation to see if they were beyond doubt and doubts crowded in upon me, that my incertitude became complete. * * I abandoned the senses, therefore, having seen all my confidence in their truth shaken. * * * Perhaps, said I, there is no assurance but in the notions of reason, viz., in first principles. * * * Upon this the senses replied: “What assurance have you that your confidence in reason is not of the same nature as your confidence in us? May there not be some other judge superior to reason? The non-appearance of such a judge is no proof of his non-existence. * * * I came to reflect on sleep, how during sleep we give to visions, reality and consistence, and have no suspicion of their untruth. On awaking we see they were nothing but visions. What assurance have we that all we feel and see and know when we are awake does actually exist?”

Al Gazzali had now come to disbelief and distrust of the world of sense. He gave his wealth away, left Bagdad and retired into Syria, to the desert, where he spent two years in solitary struggle, combating his passions, purified his heart and prepared for another world. He attained freedom. Afterwards he said: “The life of man passes through three degrees. The first or infantile state is that of pure sensation; the second is that of understanding, and the third that of reason, where the intellect perceives the necessary truths, etc. But there is a fourth state, beyond these three, in which man perceives the hidden things, that have been, and that will be and the things that escape both the senses and reason. This state is Freedom.”


Chap I. On the knowledge of the soul, and how knowledge of the soul is the key to the knowledge of God.

O seeker after the divine mysteries! Know thou that the door to the knowledge of God will be opened to a man first of all, when he knows his own soul, and understands the truth about his own spirit, according as it has been revealed, “he who knows himself knows his Lord also.”

If you wish, O seeker of the way! to know your own soul, know that the blessed and glorious Cod created you of two things: the one is a visible body, and the other is a something internal, that is called spirit and heart, which can only be perceived by the mind. But when we speak of the heart, we do not mean the piece of flesh which is in the left side of the breast of man, for that is found in a dead body and in animals: it may be seen with the eyes, and belongs to the visible world. That heart, which is emphatically called spirit, does not belong to this world, and although it has come to this world, it has only come to leave it. It is the sovereign of the body, which is its vehicle, and all the external and internal organs of the body are its subjects. Its special attribute is to know God and to enjoy the vision of the Beauty of the Ford God. — They will ask you about the spirit. Answer, “The spirit is a creation by decree of the Ford. The spirit belongs to the world of decrees. All existence is of two kinds, one is of the world of decrees, and the other is of the world of creation. To Him belong creation and decree.”

— That spirit, which has the property of knowing God is called the heart; it is not found in beasts, nor is it matter or an accident. The heart has been created with angelic qualities. It is a substance of which it is difficult to apprehend the essence. The law does not permit it to be explained, but there is no occasion for the student being acquainted with it at the outset of his journey.

— Know, O seeker after the divine mysteries! that the body is the kingdom of the heart, and that in the body there are many forces in contrariety with the heart, as God speaks in his Holy Word.

— Know, O student of wisdom! that the body, which is the kingdom of the heart, resembles a great city. The hand, the foot, the mouth and the other members resemble the people of the various trades. Desire is a standard bearer; anger is a superintendent of the city, the heart is its sovereign, and reason is the vizier. The sovereign needs the service of all the inhabitants. But desire, the standard bearer, is a liar, vain and ambitious. He is always ready to do the contrary of what reason, the vizier, commands. He strives to appropriate to himself whatever he sees in the city, which is the body. Anger, the superintendent, is rebellious and corrupt, quick and passionate. He is always ready to be enraged, to spill blood, and to blast one’s reputation. If the sovereign the heart, should invariably consult with reason, his vizier, and when desire was transgressing, should give to wrath to have power over him (yet, without giving him full liberty, should make him angry in subjection to reason, the vizier, so that passing all bounds he should not stretch out his hand upon the kingdom), there would then be an equilibrium in the condition of the kingdom, and all the members would perform the functions for which they were created, their service would be accepted at the mercy seat, and they would obtain eternal felicity.

The dignity of the heart is of two kinds; one is by means of knowledge, and the other through the exertion of divine power. Its dignity by means of knowledge is also of two kinds. The first is external knowledge, which everyone understands: the second kind is veiled and cannot be understood by all, and is extremely precious.

— In the second, by the power of thought, the soul passes from the abyss to the highest heaven, and from the East to the West.

The most wonderful thing of all is, that there is a window in the heart from whence it surveys the world. This is called the invisible world, the world of intelligence, or the spiritual world.

— The heart resembles a pure mirror, you must know, in this particular, that when a man falls asleep, when his senses are closed, and when the heart, free and pure from blamable affections, is confronted with the preserved tablet, then the tablet reflects upon the heart the real states and hidden forms inscribed upon it. In that state the heart sees most wonderful forms and combinations. But when the heart is not free from impurity, or when, on waking, it busies itself with things of sense, the side towards the tablet will be obscured, and it can view nothing. For, although in sleep the senses are blunted, the image-making faculty is not, but preserves the forms reflected upon the mirror of the heart.

— In death, the senses are completely separated and the veil of the body is removed, the heart can contemplate the invisible world and its hidden mysteries, without a veil, just as lightning or the celestial rays impress the external eye.

— If a person calls into exercise, in perfection, holy zeal and austerities, and purifies his heart from the defilement of blamable affections, and then sits down in a retired spot, abandons the use of his external senses, and occupies himself with calling out “O God! O God!” his heart will come into harmony with the visible world, he will no longer receive notices from the material world, and nothing will be present in his heart but the exalted God. In this revelation of the invisible world, the windows of the heart are opened, and what others may have seen in a dream, he in this slate sees in reality. The spirits of angels and prophets are manifested to him and he holds intercourse with them. The hidden things of the earth and heaven are uncovered to him. * * * Probably the knowledge of all the prophets was obtained in this way, for it was not obtained by learning.

— When the heart is free from worldly lusts, from the animosities of society and from distractions by the senses, the vision of God is possible. And this course is adopted by the Mystics. It is also the path followed by the prophets.

— The heart of man while in the spiritual world knows its Maker and Creator; it had mingled with the angels and knows for what service it was created.

— To whomsoever this revelation has been vouchsafed, if it directs him to reform the world, to invite the nations to turn to God, and to a peculiar way of life, that person is called a prophet, and his way of life is called a law; and that influence which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a miracle. If he has not been appointed to invite nations, but worships in accordance with the law of another, he is called a saint, and that which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a manifestation of grace.

— The knowledge of God, which is the occasion of the revelation of truth, cannot be acquired without self-denial and effort. Unless a man has reached perfection and the rank of a Superior, nothing will be revealed to him, except in cases of special divine grace and merciful providence, and this occurs very rarely.

— You have now learned, O student of the divine mysteries, the dignity of the heart through knowledge.

— Now listen to the heart’s dignity through divine power and the greatness of which it is capable.

— When God wills it, the angels send forth the winds, cause the rain to fall, bring forth the embryo in animals, shape their forms, cause seeds to sprout in the earth and plants to grow, many legions of angels being appointed to this service. The heart of man, being created with angelic properties must also have influence and power over the material world; * * * and if the animal and ferocious qualities should not be dominant, if it should look upon a lion or tiger with “majesty” they would become weak and submissive. If it should look with kindness upon one who is sick, his infirmity might be changed to health. If it should look upon the vigorous with majesty, they might become infirm. The reality of the existence of these influences is known both by reason and experience.

— In whomsover these influences are shown to have power, if he occasions misery in the exercise of this power, he is designated a sorcerer.

— The heart has dominion and control through three channels. One is through visions; — the second is through the dominion which the heart exercises over its own body; — the third source of dominion of the heart is through knowledge. — Some persons have all things opened up to them by the will of God. This kind of knowledge is called “infused and illuminated” as God says in his Word: “we have illuminated him with our knowledge.” These three specialities are all of them found in certain measure in some men, in others two of them are found, and in others, only one is found: but whenever the three are found in the same person, he belongs to the rank of prophets or of the greatest of the saints. Man cannot comprehend states of being which transcend his own nature. No person can understand any individual who belongs to a scale of rank above him.

— The path of mysticism is sought for by all men, and longed for by all classes of society, yet those who attain to the end are exceedingly rare.

— The body is but an animal to be ridden by the heart, which is it rider, while the heart’s chief end is to acquire a knowledge of God.

Chap. II. On the knowledge of God

— In the books of former prophets it is written, “Know thine own soul, and thou shalt know thy Lord,” and we have received it in a tradition, that “He who knows himself, already knows his Lord.”

— Everyone in the sphere to which he attains, is still veiled with a veil. The light of some is as of a twinkling star. Others see as by the light of the moon. Others are illuminated as if by the world-effulgent sun. To some the invisible world is even perfectly revealed, as we hear in the holy word of God: “And thus we caused Abraham to see the heaven and the earth.” And hence it is that the prophet says: “There are before God seventy veils of light; if he should unveil them, the light of His countenance would burn everything that came into His presence.”

Chap. III. On the knowledge of the world.

— Know, that this world is one stage of our life for eternity. For those who are journeying in the right way, it is the road of religion. It is a market opened in the wilderness, where those who are travelling on their way to God, may collect and prepare provisions for their journey, and depart thence to God, without sorrow or despondency.

— The world is delusive, enchanting and treacherous.

— The world will be brought to the great assembly at the last day, in the form of a woman with livid eyes, pendent lips, and deformed shape, and all the people will look upon her, and will exclaim, “what deformed and horrible person is that, whose aspect alone is severe torture to the soul.” And they will be answered, “It was on her account that you were envying and hating one another, and were ready to slay one another. It was on her account that you rebelled against God, and debased yourselves to every sort of corruption.” And then God will order her to be driven off to hell with her followers and her lovers. 12

The Lord Jesus (upon whom be peace!) declares that the world is like the man who drinks sea water. The more he drinks, the more his internal heat increases, and unless he stops, he will destroy himself by drinking.

Chap. IV. On the knowledge of the future world.

— Know, beloved, that we cannot understand the future world, until we know what death is: and we cannot know what death is, until we know what life is: nor can we understand what life is, until we know what spirit is.

— The following is an illustration of the duration of eternity, so far as the human mind can comprehend it. If the space between the empyreal heaven to the regions below the earth, embracing the whole universe, should be filled up with grains of mustard seed, and if a crow should make use of them as food and come but once in a thousand years and take but a single grain away, so that with the lapse of time there should not remain a single grain, still at the end of that time not the amount of a grain of mustard seed would have been diminished from the duration of eternity.


— Prayers are of three degrees, of which the first are those that are simply spoken with the lips. Prayers are of the second kind, when with difficulty, and only by a most resolute effort, the soul is able to fix its thoughts on Divine things without being disturbed by evil imaginations: of the third kind, when one finds it difficult to turn away the mind from dwelling on Divine things. But it is the very marrow of prayer, when He who is invoked takes possession of the soul of the suppliant, and the soul of him who prays is absorbed into God to whom he prays, and his prayer ceasing, all consciousness of self has departed, and to such a degree, that all thought whatsoever of the praying is felt as a veil betwixt the soul and God. This state is called by the Mystics “absorption,” for the reason that the man is so absorbed, that he takes no thought of his body, or of anything that happens externally, none of what occurs in his own soul, but, absent as it were from all such matter whatsoever, is first engaged in going towards his Lord, and finally is wholly in his Lord. If only the thought occurs that he is absorbed into the Absolute, it is a blemish: for that absorption only is worthy of the name which is unconscious of itself. And these words of mine, although they will be called, as I well know, but foolish babbling by raw theologians, are yet by no means without significance. For consider, the condition of which I speak, resembles that of a person who loves any other object, as wealth, honor, or pleasure. We see such persons so carried away with their love, and others with anger, that they do not hear one who speaks to them, nor see those passing before their eyes; nay, so absorbed are they in their passion, that they do not perceive their absorption. Just so far as you turn your mind upon your absorption, you necessarily turn it away from that which is the object of it.”

Again he says: “The commencement of this is the going to God, then follows the finding Him, when the “absorption” takes place. This is, at first, momentary, as the lightening swiftly glancing upon the eye. But afterwards confirmed by use, it introduces the soul into a higher world, where the most pure, essential essence meeting it, tills the soul with the image of the spiritual world, while the majesty of deity evolves and discovers itself.”

Omar Khayyam (Ghias uddin Abul Fath Omar ibn Ibrahim Al Khayyam) was born in Khorassan “the focus of Persian culture” and is supposed to have died A. D. 11 23.

He was not affiliated with any Sufi order, but large parts of his works are full of true Sufi philosophy and are recognized as such.

The first part of the following quotations are taken from the translation by E. H. Whinfield in Trubner’s Oriental Series. The second part is extracted from B. Quarritch’s ed. 1879.

MOTTO: There is a mystery I know full well,
Which to all, good and bail, I cannot tell;
My worlds are dark, but I cannot unfold
The secrets of the “station” where I dwell.

(66) — to attain unconsciousness of self
Is the sole cause I drink me drank with wine. —
(108) They preach how sweet those Houri brides will be,
But I say wine is sweeter — taste and see! —
(120) Ten powers, and nine spheres, eight heavens made He,
And planets seven, of six sides, as we see,
Five senses, and four elements, three souls,
Two worlds, but only one, O man, like thee. —
(124) What lord is fit to rule but “Truth?” not one.
What beings disobey His rule? not one. —
(131) Thy being is the being of Another,
Thy passion is the passion of Another.
Cover thy head, and think, and then wilt see,
Thy hand is but the cover of Another. —
(148) Allah hath promised wine in Paradise,
Why then should wine on earth be deemed a vice? —
(225) When the fair soul this mansion doth vacate,
Each element assumes its principal state, —
(266) They go away, and none is seen returning,
To teach that oilier world’s recondite learning:
‘Twill not be shown for dull mechanic prayers,
For prayer is naught without true heartfelt yearning.—
(285)Life’s fount is wine, Khizer 13 its guardian
I, like Elias, 14 find it where I can;
‘Tis sustenance for heart and spirit too,
Allah himself calls wine “a boon to man.” —
(340) Man is the whole creation’s summary,
The precious apple of great wisdom’s eye;
The circle of existence is a ring,
Whereof the signet is humanity. —
(351) The more I die to self, I live the more,
The more abase myself, the higher soar;
And, strange! the more I drink of Being’s wine,
More sane I grow, and sober than before! —
(369) This world a body is, and God its soul,
And angels are its senses, who control
Its limbs — the creatures, elements, and spheres;
The One is the sole basis of the whole. —
(376) Some look for truth in creeds, and forms, and rules;
Some grope for doubts or dogmas in the schools;
But from behind the veil a voice proclaims,
“Your road lies neither here nor there, O fools.” —
(400) My body’s life and strength proceed from Thee!
My soul within and spirit are of Thee!
My being is of Thee, and Thou art mine,
And I am Thine, since 1 am lost in Thee! —
(31) Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn 15 sate,
And many a Knot unravel’d by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate. —
(32) There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was — and then no more of Thee and Me. 16
(33)Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn.
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;
Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs reveal’d
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.
(34)Then of the Thee in Me who works behind
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find
A Lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,
As from Without — “The Me Within Thee Blind!” —
(35) Then to the Lip of this poor earthern Urn
I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d “While you live,
Drink! — for once dead, you never shall return.” —
(36) I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answered, once did live,
And drink; and Ah! the passive lip I kiss’d.
How many kisses might it take — and give! — 17
(44) Why, if the Soul can fling the dust aside.
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride.
Wer’t not a Shame — wer’t not a Shame for him
In this clay carcase crippled to abide?

(50-52) A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;
Yes; and a single Alif were the clue —
Could you but find it — to the Treasure-house.
And peradventure to The Master too.
Whose secret Presence * * *
* * * * eludes your pains;
Taking all shapes * * * ; and
They change and perish all — but He remains.[lb]
A moment guess’d — then back behind the Fold
Immerst of darkness* * *
(55-56) You know, my Friends, * * *
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to spouse.
For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and line,
And “Up-and-Down” by Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but — Wine.
(66-67)I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul returned to me,
And answer’d: “I myself am Heav’n and Hell;”
Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire
And Hell the shadow from a Soul on fire
Cast on the Darkness info which Ourselves,
So late emerg’d from, shall so soon expire.
* * * the Banquet is ended!

FARIDU ‘D-DIN SHAKRGUNJ (about A. D 1200).

Man, what thou art is hidden from thyself.
Kwnw’st not that morning, mid-day, and the eve
Are all within Thee? The ninth heaven art Thou,
And from the sphere into the roar of time
Didst fall ere-while, Thou art the brush that painted
The hues of all the world — the light of life
That ranged its glory in the nothingness.
Joy! Joy! I triumph now; no more I know
Myself as simply me. I burn with love.
The centre is within me, and its wonder
Lies as a circle everywhere about me.
Joy! Joy! No mortal thought can fathom me.
I am the merchant and the pearl at once.
Lo! time and space lay crouching at my feet.
Joy! Joy! When I would revel in a rapture,
I plunge into myself, and all things know.

Saadi (Shaikh-Muslah-ud-Din Saadi) was born at Shiraz, the capital of Persia. A.D. 1176.

He thus characterizes his life and his studies: “I have wandered to various regions of the world, and everywhere have I mixed freely with the inhabitants; I have gathered something in each corner; I have gleaned an ear from every harvest.” The divan of Saadi is by his countrymen reckoned to be the true Salt mine of poets. Jami calls him “the nightingale of the groves of Shiraz.”

We would call him the moral philosopher of Sufism. His writings do not contain much metaphysics.


MOTTO: The Rose may continue to bloom five or six days;
But my Rose garden is fragrant for ever.

Who, when the drum soundeth for departure, hath not made up his burden;

— Shame on the man * *

Who, on the morning of his journey, is still indulging in sweet sleep.

— They asked Lockman, the wise, from whence he learnt wisdom. He answered: “From the blind; for till they have tried the ground, they plant not the foot.”

— The world, O my brother, abideth with no one.

— Ask the inhabitants of Hell, they will tell you it is Paradise.

— The sons of Adam are limbs of one another, for in their creation they are formed of one substance.

When Fortune bringeth affliction to a single member, not one of the rest remaineth without disturbance.

— Know that from God is the difference of enemy and friend, for the hearts of both are alike in His keeping.

— So long as thou art able, crush not a single heart, for a sigh has power to overturn a world.

— Not a word can be said, even in child’s play, from which an intelligent person may not gather instruction; but if a hundred chapters of wisdom were read in the hearing of a fool, to his ears it would sound as nothing but child’s play.

— Yesternight, towards morning’, a warbling bird stole away my reason, my patience, my strength, and my understanding. My exclamations, by chance, reached the ear of a most intimate friend. “Never,” he said “could I believe that the voice of a bird should have such a power to disturb thy intellect!” — “It is not,” I replied, “befitting the condition of man, that a bird should be reciting its hymn of praise, and that I should be silent.”

— One day the Prophet said to Abu Huraizah: “Do not come every day, that our friendship may increase.”

A holy man has said: “With all the beauty which attends the sun, I have never heard that anyone has taken him for a friend, except in winter, when he is veiled, and therefore is loved.

— The treasure chosen by Lokman was patience: without patience there is no such thing as wisdom.

— Were every night a night of power, the Night of Power, would lose its worth. Were every pebble a ruby, the ruby and the pebble would be of equal value.

[Quran, Chap, xcvii: Verily we sent down the Quran in the night of al Kadr. — Therein do the angels descend, and the spirit of Gabriel also, by the permission of their Lord with his decrees concerning every matter. It is peace until morning. Comp. footnote to Lane’s transl. of the Quran and our Part II: Symbols].

— How should the multitude find its way to their secret chambers, for, like the waters of life, they are hidden in darkness?

They kindle themselves the flame, which, as a moth, consumeth them; not wrapping themselves up like the silk-worm in its own web.

Seeking for the Soul’s repose on the bosom which only can give repose, their lips are still dry with thirst on the very margin of the stream:

Not that they have no power to drink the water, but that their thirst could not be quenched, even on the banks of the Nile.
“The bird of the morning only knoweth the worth of the book of the rose; for not every one who readeth the page understandeth the meaning.”



His nature’s true state all are helpless to read.
The extent of His glory, no mortal has found;
His exquisite beauty, no vision can bound.
* * * * * *
To the skirt of His praise Reason’s hand comes not nigh.
* * * * * *
The mind can’t this world by reflection embrace.
But the Lord of the sky and the earth’s rutted skin.
On none shuts the door of subsistence for sin.
Like a drop in the ocean of knowledge are seen
Both His worlds, and the faults, Me sees, kindly, He’ll screen.
* * * * * *
The Creator is mercy-diffusing and kind,
For He helps all His creatures and knows ev’ry mind.
In Him, self-reliance and grandeur you see,
For His kingdom is old and His nature is free. —
* * * * * *
He is tardy in seizing on those who rebel,
And does not excuse-bringers rudely repel.
* * * * * *
When you’ve penitent turned “It is past,” He will write.
* * * * * *
The extent of God’s mercies, no mortal can guess;
The need of His praises, what tongue can express?
Who knows that communion with God you don’t share,
When without an absolution you stand to say pray’r?
* * * * * *
That pray’r is the key of the portal of hell,
Over which in men’s presence a long time you dwell.
If your path does not lead to the Maker alone,
Your carpet for pray’r into Hell will be thrown!
He ordered, and something from nothing arose;
Who something from nothing but He could disclose?
Again to nonentity’s hiding He flings us. —
And thence to the plain of the judgment He brings us.
Let the robes of deceit, name and fame be dispersed!
For a man becomes weak if in garments immersed.
Wordly love is a veil by which nothing is gained;
When you snap the attachments the Lord is obtained.
* * * * * *
Know, that the people in ecstasy drown’d,
In the eyes of the Lord special favour have found!
He watches the “friend,” in the fierce burning pile?
* * * * * *
You’ve no road in yourself while to self you are wed;
The enraptured alone are informed on this head. —
Some one said to a Moth “Oh, contemptible mite!
Go! love one who will your affection requite.
* * * * * *
Between you and the candle no friendship can be!
* * * * * *
No one tells you your conduct is perfectly right
In destroying your life for the love of the light!
Observe what the moth, full of hot anguish, said:
“If I burn, oh astonishing! What is the dread?
* * * * * *
* * * I fancy the flame is a beautiful rose!
* * * * * *
Won’t you helplessly, one day, your life give away?
For the sake of space and death, better give it to-day
A wild beast is not likely to change into man;
Instruction is lost on it, strive as you can.
* * * * * *
Effort makes not a rose from a willow to grow;
A warm bath will not whiten a negro like snow.
Since naught can the arrow of destiny brave.
Resignations the shield that is left to God’s slave.



I remember one night lying sleepless in bed,
That I heard what the moth to the fair candle said:
“A lover am I, if I burn it is well!
Why you should lie weeping and burning, do tell.”
“Oh my poor humble lover!” the caudle replied,
“My friend, the sweet honey away from we hied.
When sweetness away from my body departs,
A fire-like Farhads 18 to my summit then starts.”
Thus she spoke, and each movement a torrent of pain
Adown her pale cheeks trickled freely like rain.
“Oh, suitor! with love you have nothing to do,
Since nor patience, nor power of standing have you.
Oh, crude one! a flame makes you hasten away;
But I, till completely consumed, have to stay.
If the burning of love makes your wings feel this heat,
See how I am consumed, from the head to the feet!”
But a very small portion had passed of the night
When a fairy-fated maiden extinguished her 19 light.
She was saying while smoke from her head curled above,
“Thus ends, oh my boy, the existence of love!”
If the love-making science you wish to acquire,
You’re more happy extinguished than being on fire.
Do not weep o’er the grave of the slain for the friend:
Be glad! for to him lie will mercy extend.
If a lover, don’t wash the complaint from your head!
* * * * * *
I have told you: don’t enter this ocean at all!
If you do; yield your life to the hurricane squall!

The above translation is from the hand of G. S. Davie but since this story is representative of Sufi love, I add another made by S. Robinson.

I remember that one night, when I could not close my eyes in sleep, I heard the moth say to the taper.

“I am a lover, therefore it is right that I should be burnt, but wherefore shouldst thou be lamenting and shedding tears?”

It replied: “O my poor airy friend, my honey-sweet Shirin is going away;

“And since my Shirin hath left me, like Ferhad’s 20 my head is all on fire.”

So spoke the taper, and each moment a flood of sorrow flowed down over its pale cheek.

Then it continued: “O pretender, love is no affair of thine: for thou hast neither patience nor persistency.

“Thou takest to flight before a slight flame; I stand firm till I am totally consumed.

“Thou mayest just singe a wing at the fire of love; look at me, who burn from head to foot.”

A part of the night was not yet gone, when suddenly a Peri-faced damsel extinguished the light.

Then said the taper: “My breath is departed, the smoke is over my head; — such my son, is the ending of love!”

If thou wouldst learn the moral of the story, it is this: Only will the pangs of burning affection cease, when life’s taper is extinct.

Weep not over this monument of thy perished friend — rather praise Allah, that he is accepted by Him.

If them art indeed a lover, wash not the pains of love from thy head; wash rather, like Saadi, thy hand from all malevolence.

The man who volunteereth a service of peril will not withdraw his grasp from his purpose, though stones and arrows rain down upon his head.

I have said to thee: “Take heed how thou goest to the sea; but if thou wilt go, resign thyself to its billows.”

Jelaluddin Rumi (Mevlana — Our Lord — Jelalu-‘d-din, Muhammed, Er Rumi of Qonya) usually called Jelal or Mulla 21 Born A. D. 1195, he died 1273.

Jelal is the greatest poet among the Sufis and is their Grand Master of spiritual knowledge. His name means “Majesty of Faith.” He instituted the order of the Mevlevi, the “dancing or whirling dervishes,” of which we shall speak more later on. This order is a realization of Jelal’s father’s prophecy about his son: “The day shall come, when this child will kindle the fire of divine enthusiasm throughout the world.”

Jelal is truly the greatest Sufi saint, for marvelous were his powers. In the Menaqibu’l Afifin (the Acts of the Adepts) by Shemsu-d-din Ahmed, el Eflaki the following acts are recorded against his name. “When five years old, he used at times to become extremely uneasy and restless, so much so that his attendants used to take him into the midst of themselves. The cause of these perturbations was that spiritual forms and shapes of the absent (invisible world) would arise before his sight, that is, angelic messengers, righteous Genii, and saintly men — the concealed ones of the bowers of the True One (spiritual spouses of God), used to appear to him in bodily shapes: * * * His father used on these occasions to coax and soothe him by saying: “These are the Occult Existences. They come to present themselves before you, to offer unto you gifts and presents from the invisible world.” These ecstasies and transports of his began to be publicly known and talked about. The honorific title of Khudavendgar 22 was conferred upon him at this time by his father, who used to address him as “My Lord.” — “It is related that when Jelal was six years old, he one Friday afternoon was taking the air on the terraced roof of the house, and reciting the Quran, when some other children of good families came in and joined him there. After a time, one of these children proposed that they should try and jump from thence on to a neighbouring terrace, and should lay wagers on the result. Jelal smiled at this childish proposal, and remarked: “My brethren, to jump from terrace to terrace is an act well adapted for cats, dogs, and the like, to perform; but is it not degrading to man, whose station is so superior. Come now, if you feel disposed, let us spring up to the firmament, and visit the regions of God’s realm.” As he yet spake, he vanished from there sight. Frightened at Jelal’s sudden disappearance, the other children raised a shout of dismay, that some one should come to their assistance, when lo, in an instant, there he was again in their midst; but with an altered expression of countenance and blanched cheeks. They all uncovered before him, fell to the earth in humility, and all declared themselves his disciples. He now told them that, as he was yet speaking to them, a company of visible forms, clad in green raiment, had led him away from them, and had conducted him about the various concentric orbs of the spheres, and through the signs of the Zodiac, showing him the wonders of the world of spirits, and bringing him back to them so soon as their cries had reached his ears.

At that age, he was used not to break his fast more often than once in three or four, and sometimes even seven, days.

When Jelal went to Damascus to study, he passed by Sis in Upper Cilicia. There, in a cave, dwelt forty Christian monks, who had a great reputation for sanctity, but in reality were mere jugglers. On the approach of Jelal’s caravan to the cave, the monks caused a little boy to ascend into the air, and there remain standing between heaven and earth. Jelal noticed this exhibition, and fell into a reverie. Hereupon, the child began to weep and wail, saying that the man in the reverie was frightening him. The monks told him not to be afraid, but to come down. “Oh!” cried the child, “I am as though nailed here, unable to move hand or foot.” The monks became alarmed. They flocked around Jelal, and begged him to release the child. After a time, he seemed to hear and understand them. His answer was: “Only through the acceptance of Islam 23 by yourselves, all of you, as well as by the child, can he be saved.” In the end they all embraced Islam, and wished to follow Jelal as his disciples, but he recommended them to remain in their cave, as before, to cease from practising jugglery, and to serve God in the spirit and in truth. So he proceeded on his journey.

To prove that man lives through God’s will alone, and not by blood, Jelal one day, in the presence of a crowd of physicians and philosophers, had the veins of both his arms opened and allowed them to bleed until they ceased to flow. He then ordered incisions to be made in various parts of his body; but not one drop of moisture was anywhere obtainable. He now went to a hot bath, washed, performed an ablution, and then commenced the exercise of the sacred dance.


— Space forbids us to dwell any longer upon the miracles of this wonderful man of whom Shems Tebreez once asserted, in Jelal’s College, that “whosoever wished to see again the prophets, had only to look on Jelal, who possessed all their qualifications; more especially of those to whom revelations were made, whether by angelic communications, or whether in visions; the chief of such qualities being serenity of mind with perfect inward confidence and consciousness of being one of God’s elect. Go and look upon Jelal, if thou wish to comprehend the signification of that saying the learned are the heirs of the prophets together with something beyond that, which I will not here specify.”

We must add a few passages from Jelal’s lectures, etc. These were his last Instructions, “the best of mankind is he who benefiteth men” and, “the best of speech is that which is short and to the purpose.” Jelal once at a funeral spoke thus: “The ordinary reciters, by their services, bear witness that the deceased lived a Muslim. My singers, however, testily that he was a Muslim, a believer, and a lover of God.” He added: “Besides that; when the human spirit, after years of imprisonment in the cage and dungeon of the body, is at length set free, and wings its flight to the source whence it came, is not this an occasion for rejoicings, thanks, and dancings? The soul in ecstasy soars to the presence of the Eternal; and stirs up others to make proof of courage and self sacrifice. If a prisoner be released from a dungeon and be clothed with honor, who would doubt that rejoicings are proper? So too, the death of a saint is an exactly parallel case.” Once, when requested to give a lecture to men of science, he answered: “A tree laden with fruit, had its branches bowed down to the earth therewith. At the time, doubts and gainsayings prevented the gardeners from gathering and enjoying the fruit. The tree has now raised its head to the skies, and beyond. Can they hope, then, to pluck and eat of its fruit?” —

Jelal’s chief work, and the reference-book of Sufism, is the Mesnevi (Mathnawi) usually known as the Mesneviyi Sherif, or Holy Mesnevi. It is truly one of the most famous books of the East, studied and commented upon wherever dogmatic religion has been abandoned for esoteric truth.

From the preface we quote the following:

“This is the book of the Rhymed Couplets (Mathnawi, Mesnevi). It contains the roots of the roots of the roots of the one (one true) Religion (of Islam); and treats of the discovery of the mysteries of reunion and sure-knowledge. It is the Grand Jurisprudence of God, the most glorious Law of the Deity, the most manifest Evidence of the Divine Being. The refulgence thereof “is like that of a lantern in which is a lamp” 24 that scatters beams more bright than the morn. It is the paradise of the heart, with springs and foliage. One of these springs is “the fount named Salsabil” 25 by the brethren of this religious order 26 but, by saints and those miraculously endowed, it is called “the Good Station,” 27 and “the Rest Resting place. 28 The just shall eat and drink therein, and the righteous shall rejoice and be glad thereof. Like the Egyptian Nile, it is a beverage for the patient, but a delusion to the people of Pharaoh and to blasphemers; even as God, whose name be glorified, hath said: “He misleads therewith many, and He guides therewith many; but He misleads not therewith (any), save the wicked.” 29

“It is a comfort to man’s breast, an expeller of cares. It is an exposition of the Quran, an amplification of spiritual aliments, and a dulcifier of the disposition; written “by the hands of honorable scribes” 30 who inscribed thereon the prohibition: “Let none touch it save the purified.” 31 It is (a revelation) “sent down (from on high) by the Lord of (all) the worlds,” 32 which vanity approacheth not from before, nor from behind, 33 which God watches over and observes, he being “the best of a Preserver,” 34 and “The Most Compassionate of the merciful ones” 35 unto whom pertain (many) titles, his utmost title being God, whose name be exalted.”

Further on he says: “I have exerted myself to enlarge this book of poetry in rhyming couplets, which contains strange and rare narratives, beautiful sayings, and recondite indications, a path for the devout, and a garden for the pious, short in its expressions, numerous in their applications.” —

The Mesnevi is said to contain twenty-six thousand six hundred and sixty couplets and a large part of them ought to be cited here, but space forbids. We offer a few selections entirely at random.

The strength of strongest man can merely split a stone;
The Power that informs man’s soul can cleave the moon.
If man’s heart but untie the mouth of mystery’s sack,
His soul soon soars aloft beyond the starry track.
If heaven’s mystery divulged should, ‘haps become,
The whole world ‘twould burn up as fire doth wood consume.—-
Saints’ ecstasy springs from a glimpse of God, his pride.
His station’s that of intimate. He’s bridegroom; God is bride.
A bride’s veiled graces are not seen by groom alone;
Her unveiled charms solely to him in private shown.
In state she first appears before the people all;
Her veil removed, the groom alone is at her call.
Who’s not received the gift of knowledge from above,
Will ne’er believe a stock could sigh and moan for love
He may pretend to acquiesce; not from belief;
He says: “Tis so,” to scape a name much worse than thief.
All they who’re not convinced that God’s “Be” is enough,
Will turn away their face; this tale they’ll treat as “stuff.”
If he (man) from esse, reach not posse’s state, he’s nil. —
(God) Himself He’s veiled in man, as sun behind a cloud.
This seek to comprehend. God knows what mysteries shroud.
The sun He is; the sun of spirit, not of sky;
By light from Him man lives; — and angels eke, forby. —
The soul it is originates all vital force. —
The Prophet hath assureth us God’s the soul of all. —
The world’s renewed each moment, though we still remain
In ignorance that permanence can change sustain.
Life, like a river, ceaselessly, is still renewed. —
Each night Thou settest free the soul from trap of flesh,
To scan and learn the hidden records of Thy wish.
Each night the soul is like a bird from cage set free,
To wander. Judge and judgment, then, it does not see.
By night the pris’ner loses sense of bars, of chains;
By night the monarch knows no state, no pomp retains;
The merchant counts no more, in sleep, his gains and loss;
The prince and peasant, equal, on their couches toss.
The Gnostic is so e’en by day, when wide awake:
For God hath said: “Let quietude care of him take.”
Asleep to all the things of earth by night, by day,
As pen in writer’s hand he doth his guide obey. —
Of this, the Gnostic’s privilege, a trace’d suffice
To rob of sleep and reason vulgar souls of ice.
His spirit wanders in the proves of th’ absolute.
His soul is easy; body, still, calm, quiet, mute. —
In sleep thou bearest no burden; borne thou art instead.
* * * * * * *
Know then, thy sleep’s a foretaste of what is to come,
From the rapt state of saints arriving at their home.
The saints were well prefigured by the “Sleeper’s Seven,”
“Their sleep,” “their stretchings,” “their awaking” lead to heaven.—
Each night, in profound sleep our consciousness sinks,
Becomes non-existent; — waves on seashore’s brinks. —
The body’s a cage and a thorn to the soul.
Hence, seldom are body and soul wholly whole. —
Both men and fairies pris’ners are in earthly cage.—
If lifted could be from our souls the dark veil,
Each word of each soul would with miracles trail. —
The soul unto the flesh is joined, by God’s decree,
That it may be afflicted, — trials made to see.
Th’ Infinites’ lovers finite’s worshippers are not
Who seek the finite lose th’ Infinite, as we wot,
When finite with the finite falls in love, perforce,
His loved one soon returns to her infinite source. —
In non-existence mirrored, being we may see; —
Annihilate thy darksome self, thy being’s pall.
Let thy existence in God’s essence be enrolled,
As copper in alchemists’ bath is turned to gold.
Quit “I” and “We,” which o’er thy heart exert control.
“Tis egotism, estranged from God, that clogs thy soul. —
Discharge thyself of every particle of self;
So shalt thou see thyself pure, free from soil of pelf.
Within thy heart thou’lt see the wisdom of the saints,
Without a book, a teacher, or professor’s plaints. —
Thyself * * purge of self. Abstraction thou shall gain. —
Both love and soul are occult, hidden and concealed.
A lover’s whole life is but self-sacrifice;
He wins not a heart, save his own heart’s the price. —
When love for God is lighted in the human heart,
It fiercely burns; it suffers not effects’ dull smart;
— love is love’s own sign, giv’n from the highest sphere. —
The heart’s with God, — the heart is God, — boundless, immense!
From all eternity, the figures of all things,
Unnumbered, multitudinous, gleam in hearts’ wings.
To all eternity each new-created form
In heart of saint reflected is, most multiform. —
Have patience, thou too, brother, with thy needle’s smart.
So shall thou, ‘scape the sting of conscience in thy heart.
They who have conquered, — freed themselves from body’s thrall,
Are worshipped in the spheres, the sun, the moon, stars, all.
Whoever’s killed pride’s demon in his earthly frame,
The sun and clouds are slaves, to do his bidding, tame.
His heart can lesions give of flaming to the lamp;
The very sun not equals him in ardent vamp. –
The inward hymn that’s sung by all the hearts of saints
Commences: “O component parts of that thing Not.
Now since they take their rise in this Not, negative.
They put aside the hollow phantom where we live.
Ideas and essences become “things” at His word. —
This world’s a negative; the positive seek them.
All outward forms are cyphers; search, the sense to know.-
Mankind the songs of fairies never hear at all,
They are not versedin fairies’ ways, their voices small. —

“Allah, Allah!” 36 cried the sick man, racked with pain the long night through;
Till with prayer his heart grew tender, till his lips like honey grew.
But at morning came the Tempter; said “Call louder, child of Pain!
See if Allah ever hear or answers ‘Here am I,’ again.”
Like a slab, the cruel cavil through his brain and pulses went;
To his heart an icy coldness, to his brain a darkness sent.
Then before him stands Elia: says. ‘My child, why thus dismayed?
Dost repent thy former fervor? Is thy soul of prayer afraid?”
“Ah!” he cried, “I’ve called so often; never heard the Here am I;’
And I thought, God will not pity; will not turn on me his eye.”
Then the grave Elias answered, “God said, ‘Rise, Elias, go
Speak to him, the sorely tempted; lift him from his gulf of woe.
Tell him that his very longing is itself an answering cry;
That his prayer, ”Come, gracious Allah!’ is my answer ‘Here am I.'”

— When thy mind is dazed by color’s magic round,
All color’s lost in one bright light diffused around.
Those colours, too, all vanish from our view by night.
We learn from this, that color’s only seen through light.
The sense of colour-seeing’s not from light distinct.
So, too, the sudden rainbow of our mind’s instinct.
From sunlight, and the like, all outer colours rise;
The inward tints that mark our minds, from God’s sunrise,
The light that lights the eye’s the light that’s in the heart.
Eye’s light is but derived from what illumes that part.
The light that lights the heart’s the light that comes of God,
Which lies beyond the reach of sense and reason, clod!
By night we have no light; no colour can we see.
Thus, light we learn by darkness, its converse.
Agree! A seeing of the light, perception is of tints;
And these distinguished are through darkness gloomy hints.
Our griefs and sorrows were by God first introduced,
That joy to sense apparent thence should be reduced
Occult things, thus, by converse, grow apparent, all.
Since God has no converse, apparent He can’t fall.
Sight first saw light, and then the colours saw,
From converse converse stands forth, as Frank from Negro.
By converse of the light, distinguish we the light;
A converse ’tis that converse shows unto our sight.
The light of God no converse has in being’s bound;
By converse, then, man has not its distinction found.
Our eyes cannot distinguish God, decidedly;
Though He distinguish Moses and the Mount from thee. —

The doctrine, which Jelal was most emphatic about was the extinguishment of Self, and his teachings are quite characteristic for him, though the general doctrine is a common one among the Sufis. He argues for simplicity. He tells us a story about a dispute between Chinamen and Greeks before the Sultan, as to who is the more skilful of the two nations, in the art of decoration. The Chinese ask for and get thousands of colours and work hard, while the Greeks ask for no color; they only polish their front,

“Effacing every hue with nicest care,”

and when the Sultan came to examine the relative merit of Chinese gorgeous-ness and Greek simplicity,

“Down glides a sunbeam through the rifled clouds.
And, lo the colours of that rainbow house
Shine, all reflected on those glassy walls
That face them, rivalling: The sun hath painted
With lovelier blending, on that stony mirror
The colours spread by man so artfully. —
Know them. O friend! such Greeks the Sufis are,
Having one sole and simple task, to make
Their hearts a stainless mirror for their God.

Footnotes to Part I

1. Trans. Bomb. lit. Soc. Comp. the Dabistan.

2. The Dabistan: The prophet is a person who is sent to the people as their guidege to the perfection which is fixed for them in the presence of God, according to the exigency of the dispositions determined by the fixed substances, whether it be the perfection of faith, or another.

3. It is to this state the Sufis refer Mohammed’s words: “I have moments when neither prophet nor angel can comprehend me.”

4. From the Dabistan. Comp. Zeitschrift d. morgl. Gesellsch,16 art. by Fleischer Ueber die farbigen lichterscheinungen der Sufis.

5. J. P. Brown, Dervishes pp. 333.

6. The soul soliloquizing.

7. The Deity.

8. Second century.

9. The Deity.

10. The Work entitled “The Acts of the Adepts,” by Shemsu — D — Din Ahmad, EI Eflaki Las been reserved for our second part: Symbols.

11. A godhra is the counterpane of shreds the Fakirs use to lie down upon, and throw over their shoulders.

12. Comp. the mediaeval conception “Lady World.”

13. Khizer, the “Green Old Man” is the guardian of “the fountain of life” and the type of the self sustaining power of Deity.

14. Quran II. 216, Elias discovered the water of life.

15. Saturn is lord of the seventh heaven.

16. No more individual existence.

17. The following is told, and attributed to Attar; A thirsty traveller dips his hand into a spring of water to drink from. Another comes likewise to drink and loaves his earthen howl behind him. The first traveller takes it up for another draught and is surprised to find the same water bitter when drank from the earthen cup. But a voice from heaven tells him the clay from which the bowl is made was once Man; and, into whatever shape renewed, can never lose the bitter flavour of mortality.

18. Farhad was the youthful lover of Sairin.

19. Her refers to the candle. The moth is the lover and the candle the beloved.

20. See note above.

21. Mulla is the Persian form of the Arabic Maulawi, “a learned man,” “a scholar.”

22. Khudawand is a Persian word signifying “lord,” “prince,” “master.” A professor: a man of authority. It is used as a title of the Deity and by Christian missionaries in India it is generally employed as a translation of the Greek Kyrios, “Lord.” (Hughes Dic.)

23. Islam means the resigning or devoting one’s self entirely to God, and his service.

24. Quran xxiv, 35.

25. ibid, lxxvi, 18.

26. The Mevlevi or dancing devishes.

27. Quran xix, 74.

28. ibid, xxv, 26.

29. ibid, ii 24.

30. ibid, lxxx, 15.

31. ibid, lvi, 78.

32. ibid, lvi, 79.

33. ibid, xli, 42.

34. ibid, xii, 64.

35. ibid, vii, 150.

36. Free transl. by J. Freeman Clark.

Part II — Symbols

The practical expounders and preachers of Sufism are the Dervishes, the monks of Islam.

It must have become clear to our readers, that the sweet and peaceful sentiments of the couplet of Katebi, placed as motto over our first part, are the expressions of at least one side of the inner life of Sufism. But, if we listen more closely, we shall hear the plaintive note of the nightingale more distinct and perceive more readily the gloom of the cypress; both of them, like the soul of man, bewail in melancholy our disunion from Deity. That, too, is another side of Sufism, which now has been illustrated, and we have given enough quotations to show, that the highest aim of the Sufi is to attain self-annihilation by losing his humanity in Deity.

So far the direct teachings as they lie on the surface of our quotations. The grand undercurrents are the relations of The Universal Self and The Individual Self. The expression “Self” has not been used, but “God” and “Soul” because of the peculiarity of the exoteric forms of current Mohammedan Theology, which the Sufi-Doctors find themselves bound to observe.

We have yet to quote the Sufi poets Hafiz, Jami, Nizami, Attar and others, but as their teachings are veiled under symbols, they naturally find their place in this our second part, and shall be treated fully toward the end. We will begin with the more ecstatic features of practical Sufism, with the Dervishes, the Moslem saints, and thus develop the subjective forms of Sufism. We shall come to appreciate the use of a ritualistic service and ascetic practices, when we see these framed in close harmony with the laws of Nature and conductive to Union with Self.

Where we use the phrase The Personal, our readers will understand it as the subjective equivalent for the objective “Self.” —

An historic study of the rise of Sufism out of original asceticism, will afford us an excellent view of the evolution of Sufism itself as well as of all other forms of Mysticism. Hence we must devote some space to it.

It must undoubtedly be maintained that asceticism and monastic life are entirely inconsistent with Mohammedanism, and in fact Mohammed himself was far from anything like it, and constantly preached against it, advocating an active life and an aggressive religion.

But neither Mohammed nor his followers could stem the tide of ascetic influences from the East, from Buddhism: nor from the West, from Christianity. These two religious systems had existed for centuries and were both characterized by monastic institutions, and missionary spirit. But, much deeper than these individual influences lies the power of a new historic cycle beginning about a century after Mohammed, just at the time we find the greatest number of Islam saints, with a distinctive monastic cast. The era is characterized by a new civilization in the West, and a consolidation of the Eastern conquests. The Mohammedan power encircles Christendom and threatens to destroy both Church and Christianity. In the East itself a terror of existence befell the minds of men and has left the strongest impressions in the writings of such men as Ata Salami and Hasan, &c.

Even in Mohammed’s lifetime an attempt was made to engraft the elements of the contemplative life upon his doctrine. The facts are well known. One evening, after some more vigorous declamations than usual on the prophet’s part — he had taken for his theme the flames and tortures of hell — several of his most zealous companions, among whom the names of Omar, Ali, Abou-Dharr, and Abou-Horeirah are conspicuous, retired to pass the night together in a neighbouring dwelling. Here they fell into deep discourses on the terrors of divine justice, and the means to appease or prevent its course. The conclusion they came to was nowise unnatural. They agreed that to this end the surest way was to abandon their wives, to pass their lives in continued fast and abstinence, to wear hair-cloth, and practice other similar austerities: in a word, they laid down for themselves a line of conduct truly ascetic, and leading to whatever can follow in such a course. But they desired first to secure the approbation of Mohammed. Accordingly, at break of day, they presented themselves before him, to acquaint him with the resolution of the night, as well as its motives and purport; but they had reckoned without their host. The prophet rejected their proposition with a sharp rebuke, and declared marriage and war to be far more agreeable to the Divinity than any austereness of life or mortification of the senses whatever, and the well known passage of the Quran: “O true believers, do not abstain from the good things of the earth which God permits you to enjoy,” revealed on this very occasion, remains a lasting monument of Mohammed’s disgust at this premature outbreak of ascetic feeling. This lesson and many others of a similar character, for the time being, checked any and all appearance of declared forms of asceticism, but could not prevent the ultimate triumph of the truer and better parts of human nature. “Fate” would have it, that within his own family, lie hidden the germs, destined in after ages, down to the present day, and probably as long as Islam shall exist, to exert the mightiest influence in the Mohammedan world.

Ali, Mohammed’s cousin, and Ali’s son Hasan, his grandson Zein el Abidin, and after them Djaufar es Sadik, Mousa el Kadhim, Ali er Ridha, and others of their race, were members of a family which became the very backbone of asceticism. They were successively looked up to by individual ascetics as the guides and instructors in word and deed of self-denial and abnegation.

In the Menaqibu 1 Arafin (the Acts of the Adepts) it is related that the Prophet one day recited to Ali in private the secrets and mysteries of the “Brethren of Sincerity” enjoining him not to divulge them to any of the uninitiated, so that they should not be betrayed; also, to yield obedience to the rule of implicit submission. For forty days, Ali kept the secret in his own sole breast, and bore therewith until he was sick at heart. As his burden oppressed him and he could no more breathe freely, he fled to the open wilderness, and there chanced upon a well. He stooped, reached his head as far down into the well as he was able; and then, one by one, he confided those mysteries to the bowels of the earth. From the excess of his excitement, his mouth filled with froth and foam. There he spat out into the water of the well, until he had freed himself of the whole, and he felt relieved. After a certain number of days, a single seed was observed to be growing in that well. It waxed and shut up, until at length a youth, whose heart was miraculously enlightened on the point, became aware of this growing plant, cut it down, drilled holes in it, and began to play upon it airs, similar to those now performed by the dervish lovers of God, as he pastured his sheep in the neighbourhood. By degrees, the various tribes of Arabs of the desert heard of this flute-playing of the shepherd, and its fame spread abroad. The camels and the sheep of the whole region would gather around him as he piped, ceasing to pasture that they might listen. From all directions, the nomads flocked to hear his strains, going into ecstasies with delight, weeping for joy and pleasure, breaking forth in transports of gratification. The rumor at length reached the ears of the Prophet, who gave orders for the piper to be brought before him. When he began to play in the sacred presence, all the holy disciples of God’s messenger were moved to tears and transports, bursting forth with shouts and exclamations of pure bliss, and losing all consciousness. The Prophet declared that the notes of the shepherd’s flute were the inspiration of the holy mysteries he had confided in private to Ali’s charge.

Thus it is that, until a man acquires the sincere devotion of the linnet-voiced flute-reed, he cannot hear the mysteries of “The Brethren of Sincerity” in its dulcet notes, or realize the delights thereof; for “faith is altogether a yearning of the heart, and a gratification of the spiritual sense.”

In regard to “The Brethren of Sincerity” mentioned above it can be said that the Mohammedans in the East know perfectly well that there exists on earth, among the initiated a secret hierarchy which governs the whole human race, infidels as well as believers, but that their power is often exercised in such a manner that the subjects influenced by it know not from what person or persons its effects proceed.

In this hierarchy the supreme dignity is vested in the Khidr. This is a man indeed, but one far elevated above ordinary human nature by his transcendent privileges. Admitted to the Divine Vision, and possessed in consequence of a relative omnipotence and omniscience on earth; visible and invisible at pleasure; freed from the bonds of space and time; by his ubiquitous and immortal powers appearing in various forms on earth to uphold the cause of truth; then concealed awhile from men; known in various ages as Seth, as Enoch, as Elias, and yet to come at the end of time as the Mahdi; this wonderful being is the centre, the prop, the ruler, the mediator of men of ascetic habits and retirement, and as such he is honoured with the name of Kothb, or axis, as being the spiritual pole round which and on which all move or are upheld. Under him are the Aulia, or intimate friends of God, seventy-two in number (some say twenty-four), holy men living on earth, who are admitted by the Kothb to his intimate familiarity, and who are to the rest the sources of all doctrine, authority, and sanctity. Among these again one, pre-eminent above the rest, is qualified by the vicarious title of Kothb-ez-zaman, or axis of his age, and is regarded as the visible depositary of the knowledge and power of the supreme Kothb — who is often named, for distinction’s sake, Kothb el-Aktkab, or axis of the axes — and his constant representative amongst men. But as this important election and consequent delegation of power is invisible and hidden from the greater number even of the devotees themselves, and neither the Kothb-ez-zaman nor the Aulia carry any outward or distinctive sign of dignity and authority, it can only be manifested by its effects, and thus known by degrees to the outer world, and even then rather as a conjecture than as a positive certainty.

On the authority of the famous saint of Bagdad, Aboo-Bekr el Kettanee, E. W. Lane 1 states that the orders under the rule of this chief are called Omud (or Owtad), Akhyar, Abdal, Nujaba, and Nukaba, naming them according to their precedence, and remarks that perhaps to these should be added an inferior order called Ashab ed-Darak, that is “Watchmen” or “Overseers.” The Nukaba are three hundred and reside in El-Gharb (Northern Africa to the West of Egypt): the Nujaba are seventy and reside in Egypt; the Abdal are forty and are found in Syria; the Akhyar are seven and travel about the earth; the Omud are four and stand in the corners of the earth. The members are not known as such to their inferior unenlightened fellow-creatures, and are often invisible to them. This is most frequently the case with the Kothb, who, though generally stationed at Mekka, on the roof of the Kaaba, is never visible there, nor at any of his other favorite stations, yet his voice is often heard at these places.

Let us add that their great power is supposed to be obtained by self-denial, implicit reliance upon God, from good genii and by the knowledge and utterance of “the most great name.”

Eflaki, the historian, has given us the links of a spiritual series, through whom the mysteries of the dervish doctrines were handed down to and in the line of Jelaludin er Rumi.

Ali communicated the mysteries to the Imam Hasan of Bara, who died A.D. 728. Hasan taught them to Habib, the Persian† A.D. 724) who confided them to Dawud of the tribe Tayyi † A.D. 781) who transmitted them to Maruf of Kerkh † A.D. 818); he to Sirri († A.D. 867) and he to the great Juneyd († A.D. 909). Juneyd’s spiritual pupil Shibli († A.D. 945) taught Abu-Amr Muhammed, son of Ilahim Zajjaj († A.D. 959) and his pupil was Abu-Bekr, son of Abdu-llah of Tus, who taught Abu-Ahmed Muhammed, son of Muhammed Al-Gazzali († A.D. mi), and he committed those mysteries to Ahmed el-Khatibi, Jelal’s great-grandfather, who consigned them to the Imam Sarakhsi († A.D. 1175). Sarakhsi was the spiritual teacher of Jelal’s father Baha Veled, who taught the Sayyid Burhanu-d-Diu Termizi, the instructor of Jelal. — We shall now proceed with the history.

Zaous Abou Add er-Rahman, of Persian origin, but born in Yemen, led the way. He had passed his early youth in the society of Zein el Abidin, the son of Hasan, and grandson of Ali, and the first of that family who in life and writing professed the mystical ideas and austere practices, which ever afterwards distinguished the race. Abou-Horeirah, the devoutest of Mohammed’s own companions, and EbnAbbas were also his masters. He took up his abode at Mecca, the center of religious feeling, and soon Zaous’ influence began to appear among the crowd of pilgrims from all parts of the Mohammedan empire; they began to imitate his long prayers, his fasts, and extreme poverty, and above all his open contempt for all worldly dignity and rank, and many adopted the peculiarity of his dress, the long and patched garment and the high woollen cap, both of which later became so characteristic of the Sufi.

One of his most distinguished followers was Hasan Yesar, like Zaous, of Persian origin, but born in Arabia, in Medinah. Having received his liberty (he was born after his mother had become a slave of Omm Salma, one of the numerous wives of the Prophet), he retired to Basra, on the Persian Gulf, a town known for its attachment to the family of Ali and their doctrines, and henceforth a stronghold of the ascetic sect. His life proved the truth and strength of his doctrines, and Basra was now their headquarters.

Malik Ebn Dinar, a Persian, and a slave by birth, known for his love of manual labor, poverty and humility, next appears as chief among the ascetics of his age.

Omar Abou Othman, was a disciple of Hasan Yesar and also an inhabitant of Basra. Hasan Yesar described him as one worthy of angels and prophets for preceptors and guides, one who never exhorted save to what he had first put in practice, nor deterred from anything except what he himself inviolably abstained from. He was a vigorous asserter of man’s free-will.

About the same time Omar Abou Durr at Coufa and Sofein Abou Abd Allah displayed similar examples of austerity and virtue, and so did Hammad Abou Ismail, son of the celebrated Abou Hanifah, Abd Allah Merouji, and Mohammed Ebn es Semmak.

But whether at Mecca or at Basra, the various ascetics already mentioned, and the many not mentioned; whatever personal influence they exercised, and virtues they possessed, they did not form a particular and distinct association or brotherhood. No common rule united them, nor did they group themselves around any superior or chief, as yet.

But the next prominent man among them was not only a remarkable man as an ascetic, but also the father and founder of all the numerous Dervish family. His name was Fodheil Abou Ali Zalikani. He was born of Persian parents and spent his youth as a highway robber. One night he had scaled the walls of a house where the girl of whom he was enamored dwelt, and concealed on the roof, awaited the moment to descend and gratify his passion. But while thus occupied he heard a voice repeating the well-known verse of the Quran: “Is it not high time for those who believe to open their hearts to compunction?” “Lord, it is high time indeed,” replied Fodheil; and leaving the house, as well as his evil design, he retired to a half-ruined caravansarai not far off, there to pass the rest of the night. Several travellers were at the moment lodged in the caravansarai, and, concealed by the darkness, he overheard their conversation: “Let us start on our journey,” said one; and the others answered: “Let us wait till morning, for the robber Fodheil is out on the roads.” This completed the conversion of the already repentant highwayman. He advanced towards the travellers, and, discovering himself to them, assured them that henceforth neither they nor any others should have aught to fear from him. He then stripped himself of his weapons and worldly gear, put on a patched and tattered garment, and passed the rest of his life in wandering from place to place, in the severest penitence and in extreme poverty, sometimes alone, sometimes with numerous disciples, whom he took under his direction, and formed into a strict and organized brotherhood. But with all his austerity of life, his prolonged fasts and watchings, his ragged dress and wearisome pilgrimages, he preferred the practice of interior virtue and purity of intention to all outward observances, and used often to say that “he who is modest and compliant to others, and lives in meekness and patience, gains a higher reward by so doing than if he fasted all his days, and watched in prayer all his nights.” At so high a price did he place obedience to a spiritual guide, and so necessary did he deem it, that he declared: “Had I a promise of whatever I should ask in prayer, yet would I not offer that prayer save in union with a superior.” But his favorite virtue was the love of God in perfect conformity to his will, above all hope and fear. Thus when his only son — whoso virtues resembled his father’s — died in early age, Fodheil was seen with a countenance of unusual cheerfulness; and being asked by his intimate disciple Ragi Abou Ali, afterwards Kadhi of the town of Rei, the reason therefore, he answered: “It was God’s good pleasure, and it is therefore my good pleasure also.” We must notice one more of his famous sentences: “Much is he beguiled who serves God from fear or hope, for this true service is for mere love;” and, speaking of himself: “I serve God because I cannot help serving Him for very love’s sake.”

Fodheil died in the year 187 of the Hegira. His disciple was Ibrahim Ebn Adhem, son of noble parents and also a Persian by birth, and he is an example upon the forbearance under injury and reluctance to have their right manifested, so prominent amongst the disciples of Fodheil.

After the death of Fodheil the supreme direction of the brotherhood was vested in Bishar el Hafi, a native of Meron and inhabitant of Bagdad. When young he had, like Fodheil, led a reckless life, till one day walking in the streets he saw written on a piece of paper, torn and trampled on by the feet of the passers-by, the name of God. He picked it up and, having cleaned it to the best of his ability, took it home and placed it out of the reach of further profanation. The same night he heard a voice saying to him; “Bishar, thou has honored my name. I will accordingly render thy name honorable in this world and in that to come.” He awoke from sleep a changed man, and began a new life of penance and virtue. The name Hafi signifies barefoot. He walked barefooted. His greatest trial was from the veneration of man: “O God,” he used to say, “save me from this honor, the requital of which may perchance be confusion in another life.”

Our space forbids us to dwell upon the Egyptian ascetics who helped to lay the foundation for the future Sufism. We pass by them and dwell mainly with the Persian representatives.

About this time — the beginning of the fourth century — two events occurred of greatest importance in the history we are narrating. The Samanide princes had gained ascendency in the empire over the Abbaside Caliphs. All the princes of the Samanide race were remarkable for their piety and patronage of learning. Nasser Ebn Ahmed, signalized himself by his love of retirement and religious meditation. He founded an oratory at Bokhara which soon became the resort of the now numerous ascetics, and soon other similar institutions arose throughout the country and the dervishes of the East now look on them their permanent name and manner of life.

The other event which characterized this era was the outbreak of open heterodoxy among the ascetics. Hitherto they had concealed their tenets and practices, opposed as they were to the prevailing system, much after the fashion of Ali Zein el Abidin, grandson of the famous Ali, grand-master of the secret order:

“Above all things I conceal the precious jewel of my knowledge,
Lest the uninitiated should behold it, and be bewildered;
Ah, how many a rare jewel of this kind, should I openly display it,
Men would say to me: ‘Thou art one of the worshippers of idols;
And Zealous Muslims would set my blood at price,
Deeming the worst of crimes an acceptable and virtuous action.”

After these ascetics had learned their strength from their union they began to take part in politics and worked zealously with that party that wished to overthrow the family and religion of Mohammed and place Ali and mysticism in their stead. They accordingly soon had martyrs in their ranks. Thus died at Bagdad the famous Hosain Abou Meghith el Halladj. To his school belonged the three giants of learning and piety: Abd-el-Kadir el Ghilani, Mohi ed Din Ebn-Aarabi el Moghrebi, and Omar Ebn el Faridh. We pen a few of his words:

“I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I;
We are two spirits, inhabiting one outward frame:
And when you behold me, you behold Him,
And when you behold Him, you behold us twain.”

He taught the freedom of the human will and wrote the following satire on the predestinarian system of Islam:

What can man do, if the decrees of predestination surround him,
Binding him in his every state? answer me, O learned professor.
He (i.e., as if He, that is God) cast him into the ocean, bound hand and foot, and then said to him,
Woe to you, woe to you, should you get wet with the water.”

He it is who thus in his verse addresses God:

“I love Thee with a twofold love, the love of friendship,
And the love grounded on this alone, that Thou art worthy of it.
Cut as to that my love which is the love of friendship,
It is a love which leaves me no thought for any save Thee;
And as to the love of Thee according to Thy worthiness,
O raise from betwixt us the vail, that I may behold Thee.
Nor is any praise due to me either for this or for that (love),
But to Thee alone the praise both for this and that.”

Halladj’s three famous disciples gave their names to the three principal brotherhoods among the Mohammedans, and their work remains to this day.

Abd-el-Kadir el Ghilani was a Persian by birth and resided at Bagdad. Nobody doubted that he was the Kothb of his time, and as such he announced himself in his ecstatic state, though ordinarily he strove to conceal himself under the veil of a mean and despicable appearance. He founded the order of the Qadiriyah which association counted in its ranks some of the greatest names among Eastern mystics and poets. The doctrine of the order was that of Hosein el Halladj, whom he taught the order to look upon as their master, though their doctrine was commonly veiled under a seemingly orthodox terminology. They subsist to this day and are counted among the most prominent.

M. D’hosson in his celebrated work on the Ottoman empire traces the origin of the Faquirs to the time of Mohammed in the following manner: In the first year of the Hegira, forty-five citizens of Mecca joined themselves to many others from Medina. They took an oath of fidelity to the doctrines of their Prophet, and formed a sect or fraternity, the object of which was to establish among themselves a community of property, and to perform every day certain religious practices in a spirit of penitence and mortification. To distinguish themselves from other Mohammedans, they took the name of Sufis. This name, which later was attributed to the most zealous partisans of Islam, is the same still in use to indicate any Muselman who retires from the world to study, to lead a life of pious contemplation, and to follow the most painful exercises of an exaggerated devotion. To the name of Sufi they added also that of Faquir, because their maxim was to renounce the goods of the earth, and to live in an entire abnegation of all worldly enjoyments, following thereby the words of the Prophet: “Poverty is my pride.” Following their example, Abu Bakr and Ali established, even during the lifetime of the Prophet and under his own eyes, religious orders, over which each presided, with Zikrs or peculiar religious exercises, established by them separately, and a vow taken by each of the voluntary disciples forming them. On his decease, Abu Bakr made over his office of president to one Salmann l-Farisi, and Ali to al-Hasann l-Basri, and each of these charges were consecrated under the title of Khalifah, or successor. The two first successors followed the example of the Khalifahs of Islam, and transmitted it to their successors, and these in turn to others, the most aged and venerable of their fraternity. Some among them, led by the delirium of the imagination, wandered away from the primitive rules of their society, and converted, from time to time, these fraternities into a multitude of religious orders. * * * It was about A. H. 49 (A. D. 766) that the Shaikh Ahvan, a mystic renowned for his religious fervor, founded the first regular order of the Faquirs, now known as the Alwaniyah.

The Bastamiyah, the Nagshbandiyah, and the Bakhtashiyah descend from the original order established by Abu Bakr. All the others come from Ali.


The Arabic word Faqir signifies poor, poor in the sense of being in need of mercy, poor in the sight of God. The Persian equivalent Darvish is derived from dar “a door” — those who “beg from door to door.”

The dervishes are, as stated before, the practical expounders of Mohammedanism. They are divided into two great classes, the be Shara (with the law), or those who govern their conduct according to the principles of Islam: and the be Shara (without the law), or those who do not rule their lives according to the formal principles of any religious creed, although they call themselves Muslims. To the latter, the Sufis principally belong. These Faquirs are called either Azad, the free, or Majnub the absorbed. The former shave their beards, whiskers, eyebrows, etc., and live a life of celibacy.

Every school and every brotherhood has its own distinctive teachings and technicalities, and its peculiar practices and observances, its saints and doctors, great men and founders.

A student will also readily discover a different character in Arabic and Persian Sufism. The Arabic being nearer to Christianity takes up much from it, but moulds it in its peculiar way; the Persian being nearer the traditions of Zoroaster and in immediate contact with Manechaism, naturally borrows from thence. Thus the “pantheistic” tendencies, such as Divine absorption, universal manifestation of the Deity under the seeming appearances of limited forms, the final return of all things to the unity of God, a tendency to regard matter as evil, the reprobation of marriage, etc. — these were ideas that rose from Persian soil, while the ideas of a radiant Divinity mediating between the supreme fountain-head of Being and the created world: of an all-prevading Spirit of love; of detachment from the world: of poverty, humility, etc., were more akin to Christian belief.

Still Saadis’ description applies to all: “The outward tokens of a dervish are a patched garment and a shaven head; and the inward signs, those of being alive in the spirit, and dead in the flesh: — ‘not he who will sit apart from his fellow-creatures at the door of supplication with God: and, if he shall reject his prayer, will stand up in disobedience; or if a mill-stone come rolling down a mountain, he is not intelligent in the ways of providence, that would rise to avoid it.'”

“The ritual of the Dervishes is gratitude and praise, worship and obedience, contentment and charity, and a belief in the unity and providence of God, having a reliance on and being resigned to his will, confident of his favour, and forbearant of all: whosoever is endowed with these qualifications is in truth a dervish, notwithstanding he be arrayed in gorgeous apparel: whereas, the irreligious and hypocritical vainboaster, sensualist, and whore monger, who turn days into nights in his slavish indulgences, and converts nights into days in his dreams of forgetfulness; who eats whatever falls in his way, and speaks whatever comes uppermost, is a profligate, though clothed in the sackcloth of a saint. ——”

The dervishes differ, says A. Vambery, 2 from each other only by the manner in which they demonstrate their enthusiasm; still the more we penetrate towards the East, the greater is the purity with which they have been preserved. In Persia the dervishes play a much more important part than in Turkey, and in Central Asia, isolated as it has been from the rest of the world for centuries, this fraternity is still in full vigor, and exercises a great influence upon society.

According to A. Vambery, the Bektashi, Mevlevi, and Rufai orders are principally found in Turkey; the Kadrie and Djelali in Arabia; the Oveisi and the Nurbakhchi Nimetullahi in Persia: the Khilali and Zahibi in India, and the Nakishbendi and Sofi (a recent order) in Central Asia.

According to Th. P. Hughes 3 the following are the chief orders of Faqirs met with in North India: (1) The Naqshbandia, the followers of Khwajah Pir Mohammed Naqshband, and are a very numerous sect; they usually perform the Zikr-i-Khafi 4 or the silent devotion. (2) The Qadiria sprung from the celebrated Sayyid Abdul Qadir, surnamed Pir Dustagir, whose shrine is at Bagdad. They practice both forms of the Zikr. Most of the Sunni Moulavis of the north-west frontier of India are members of this order. In Egypt it is most popular among the fisherman. (3) The Chishtia are followers of Banda Nawaz, whose shrine is at Calburgah; they are partial to vocal music, for the founder of the order remarked, that singing was the food and support of the soul. They perform the Zikr-i-Jali. (4) The Jalalia founded by Sayyid Jalal-ud-din of Bokhara; they are met with in Central Asia. Religious mendicants are often of this order. (5) The Sarwardia are popular in Alganistan and comprise many learned men. They are the followers of Hasan Bisri of Basra, near Bagdad. These five are all ba-Shara Faqirs.

The be-Shara Faqirs are very numerous. The most popular order is that of the Mudaria, founded by Zinda Shah Murdar of Syria, whose shrine is at Mukanpur, in Oudh. From these have sprung the Malang Faqirs who crowd the bazaars of India. They wear their hair matted or tied in a knot. The Rafia order is also a numerous one in some parts of India. They practice the most severe discipline and mortify themselves by scourging.

The secrets of the dervish orders cannot be learned. An initiation is described in Lane’s Society is the Middle Ages and the following is another.

The following is the account of the admission of Tewekkul Beg into the order of the Qadiriyahfaqirs, one of the four most prominent ones, by Moolla Shah, a Saint and poet of some celebrity, who died in the year of the Hegira 1072 (1661-62 of our era), at Lahore, where his shrine was reared by the Princess Fatima, daughter of Shah-Jihan. Tewekkul is himself the narrator:

“Having been introduced, by means of Akhond Molla Mohammed Say’d into the intimate circle of Molla Shah, my heart through frequent intercourse with the Sheikh was filled with a burning desire of reaching the sublime goal [of the mystical science], and I no longer found sleep by night nor rest by day * * I passed the whole of that night without being able to shut my eyes, and betook myself to reciting a hundred thousand times the one hundred and twelfth chapter of the Qoran. I accomplished this in several days. It is well known that in this chapter of the Qoran the great Name of God is contained, and that through the power of that Name, whoever recites it a hundred thousand times may obtain all that he desires. I conceived then the wish that the Master should bestow his affection upon me. And, in fact, I convinced myself of the efficacy of this means, for hardly had I finished the hundred thousandth recitation of this chapter of the book of God, when the heart of the Master was filled with sympathy for me, and he gave order to Senghin Mohammed, his vicar, to conduct me on the following night to his presence. During that whole night he concentrated his mind upon me, while I directed my meditation upon my own heart; but the knot of my heart was not unloosed. So passed three nights, during which he made me the object of his spiritual attention, without any result being manifested. On the fourth night Molla Shah said, ‘This night Molla Senghin and Salih Beg, who are both very susceptible to ecstatic emotions, will direct their whole mind upon the neophyte.’ They obeyed this order, while I remained seated the whole night, my face turned towards Mecca, at the same time concentrating all my mental faculties upon my own heart. Towards daybreak, a little light and brightness came into my heart, but I could distinguish neither form nor color. After morning prayer I presented myself, and the two persons I have just mentioned, before the Master who saluted me and asked them what they had done to me. They replied: ‘Ask him, himself.’ Then, addressing me, he told me to relate to him my impressions. I said that I had seen a brightness in my heart; whereupon the Sheikh became animated, and said to me: ‘Thy heart contains an infinity of colors, but it is become so dark that the looks of these two crocodiles of the infinite ocean [the mystic science] have not availed to bestow upon it either brightness or clearness; the moment is come when I myself will show thee how it is enlightened.’ With these words he made me sit in front of him, while my senses were, so to speak, inebriated, and ordered me to reproduce within me his appearance. Then, having blindfolded me, he bade me concentrate all my mental faculties upon my heart. I obeyed, and in an instant, by the divine favor and the spiritual assistance of the Sheikh, my heart was opened. I saw then within me something like a cup, turned upside down: and this object having been turned up again, a feeling of illimitable happiness filled my whole being. I said to the Master, ‘This cell, where I am sitting before you — I see a faithful reproduction of it within me, and it seems as if another Tewekkul Beg were seated before another Molla Shah.’ He answered, ‘It is well; the first vision which presents itself to thy view is the figure of the Master.’* * * He next bade me uncover my eves, which I did, and I then saw him, by the material organ of vision, seated in front of me. Again he made me bandage them, and I perceived him by my spiritual vision, seated in front of me just the same. Full of wonder I cried out, O my Master, whether I look with my bodily eyes or my spiritual vision, it is always you that I see. Meanwhile I saw advance towards me a dazzling figure, and upon my telling the Master of it, he bade me ask the apparition its name. In my spirit I put to it that question, and the figure answered me by the voice of the heart, ‘My name is Abd Alkadir Glilany.’ I heard this answer by my spiritual ear. The Master then advised me to pray the Saint to give me his spiritual help and succor. I made this petition; and the apparition said to me, ‘I had already granted to thee my spiritual assistance; hence it is that the knots of thy heart have been loosed.’ Full of deep gratitude, I imposed on myself the obligation of reciting every Friday night the whole Qoran in honor of this great Saint, and for two whole years I never neglected this practice. Molla Shah then said, ‘The spiritual world has been shown to thee in all its beauty: remain there seated, effacing thyself completely in the marvels of this unknown world.’

“I obeyed strictly the directions of my Master, and, day by day, the spiritual world became more and more unveiled before me. The next day I saw the figures of the Prophet and his chief Companions, and legions of Saints and Angels passed before my inner vision. Three months passed in this manner, after which the sphere where all color is effaced opened before me, and then all the figures disappeared. During all this time the Master ceased not to explain to me the doctrine of the union with God and of mystical intuition. But, nevertheless, the Absolute Reality would not show itself to me. It was not until after a year that the knowledge of the Absolute Reality, in its relation with the conception of my own existence came to me. The following verses revealed themselves at that moment to my heart, whence they passed unbidden to my lips: —

‘That this corruptible frame was other than water and dust
I knew not: the powers of the heart and the soul and the body I knew not,
Woe is me! that so much of my life without Thee has for ever fled from me.
Thou wert I; but dark was my heart: I knew not the secret transcendent.’

“I submitted to Molla Shah this poetical inspiration, and he rejoiced that the idea of the union with God was at last manifested to my heart: and addressing his disciples, he said: ‘Tewekkul Beg has heard from my mouth the words of the doctrine of the union with God, and he will never betray the mystery. His inner eye is opened; the sphere of color and images is shown to him, and at last the sphere where all color is effaced has been revealed to him. Whoever after having passed through these phases of the union with God, has obtained the Absolute Reality, shall no more be led astray, whether by his own doubts or by those which sceptics may suggest to him.”

Footnotes to Part II

1. Arabian Soc. in the Middle Ages. — D’Ohsson describing the Turkish Dervishes gives another account.

2. Intell. Obs. Vol. 7.

3. Notes on Mohammedanism.

4. The Zikrs will be described in next number of The Path.


The Path, May-October, 1886

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