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Islamic Spirituality: the forgotten revolution Abdal-Hakim Murad

THE POVERTY OF FA ATI!ISM 'Blood is no argument', as Shakespeare observed. Sadly, Muslim ranks are today swollen with those who disagree. The World Trade Centre, yesterday's symbol of global finan e, has today be ome a monument to the failure of global !slam to ontrol those who believe that the West an be bullied into hanging its wayward ways towards the "ast. There is no real e# use to hand. !t is simply not enough to lamour, as many have done, about ' hi kens oming home to roost', and to protest that Washington's a $uies en e in !sraeli poli ies of ethni leansing is the inevitable generator of su h hate. !t is of ourse true % as Shabbir &khtar has noted % that powerlessness an orrupt as insistently as does power. But to omprehend is not to san tion or even to empathi'e. To take inno ent life to a hieve a goal is the hallmark of the most e#treme se ular utilitarian ethi , and stands at the opposite pole of the absolute moral onstraints re$uired by religion. There was a time, not long ago, when the 'ultras' were few, forming only a tiny wart on the fa e of the worldwide attempt to revivify !slam. Sadly, we an no longer en(oy the lu#ury of ignoring them. The e#treme has broadened, and the middle ground, giving way, is everywhere dislo ated and onfused. &nd this enfeeblement of the middle ground, was what was en(oined by the )ropheti e#ample, is in turn a elerated by the opprobrium whi h the e#tremists bring not simply upon themselves, but upon ommitted Muslims everywhere. *or here, as elsewhere, the preferen es of the media work firmly against us. +avid ,oresh ould broad ast his fringe Bibli al message from -an h &po alypse without the image of Christianity, or even its &dventist wing, being in any way besmir hed. But when a fringe !slami group bombs Swedish tourists in Cairo, the mu k is instantly spread over 'militant Muslims' everywhere. !f these things go on, the !slami movement will ease to form an authenti summons to ultural and spiritual renewal, and will e#ist as little more than a splintered array of mania al fa tions. The prospe t of su h an appalling and humiliating end to the story of a religion whi h on e surpassed all others in its apa ity for tolerating debate and dissent is now a real possibility. The entire e#perien e of !slami work over the past fifteen years has been one of in reasing radi ali'ation, driven by the per eived failure of the traditional !slami institutions and the older Muslim movements to lead the Muslim

peoples into the worthy but so far himeri al promised land of the '!slami State.' !f this final atastrophe is to be averted, the mainstream will have to regain the initiative. But for this to happen, it must begin by onfessing that the radi al riti$ue of moderation has its for e. The !slami movement has so far been remarkably unsu essful. We must ask ourselves how it is that a man like .asser, a but her, a failed soldier and a yni al demagogue, ould have taken over a ountry as pivotal as "gypt, despite the va uity of his beliefs, while the Muslim Brotherhood, with its pullulating millions of members, should have failed, and failed ontinuously, for si# de ades. The radi al a usation of a failure in methodology annot fail to strike home in su h a onte#t of dismal and prolonged inade$ua y. !t is in this onte#t % startlingly, perhaps, but ines apably % that we must present our ase for the revival of the spiritual life within !slam. !f it is ever to prosper, the '!slami revival' must be made to see that it is in risis, and that its mental resour es are proving insuffi ient to meet ontemporary needs. The response to this must be grounded in an a t of olle tive muhasaba, of self% e#amination, in terms that trans end the ideologised neo%!slam of the revivalists, and return to a more lassi al and indigenously Muslim diale ti . Symptomati of the disease is the fa t that among all the e#planations offered for the risis of the !slami movement, the only authenti ally Muslim interpretation, namely, that /od should not be lending it 0is support, is onspi uously absent. !t is true that we fre$uently hear the 1urani verse whi h states that 2/od does not hange the ondition of a people until they hange the ondition of their own selves.2345 But never, it seems, is this prin iple intelligently grasped. !t is assumed that the sa red te#t is here doing no more than to en(oin individual moral reform as a pre ondition for olle tive so ietal su ess. .othing ould be more ha'ardous, however, than to measure su h moral reform against the yardsti k of the fiqh without giving on ern to whether the virtues gained have been a $uired through onformity 6a relatively simple task7, or pro eed spontaneously from a genuine realignment of the soul. The verse is speaking of a spiritual hange, spe ifi ally, a transformation of the nafs of the believers % not a moral one. &nd as the Blessed )rophet never tired of reminding us, there is little value in outward onformity to the rules unless this onformity is mirrored and engendered by an authenti ally righteous disposition of the heart. '.o%one shall enter the /arden by his works,' as he e#pressed it. Meanwhile, the profoundly (udgemental and works % oriented tenor of modern revivalist !slam 6we must shun the problemati bu''%word 'fundamentalism'7, fi#ated on visible manifestations of morality, has failed to address the underlying $uestion of what revelation is for. *or it is theologi al nonsense to suggest that /od's final on ern is with our ability to onform to a omple# set of

rules. 0is on ern is rather that we should be restored, through our labours and 0is gra e, to that state of purity and e$uilibrium with whi h we were born. The rules are a vital means to that end, and are fa ilitated by it. But they do not take its pla e. The 0oly 1ur'an Sura 48944. To make this point, the 0oly 1uran deploys a striking metaphor. !n Sura Ibrahim, verses :; to :<, we read9 0ave you not seen how /od oineth a likeness9 a goodly word like a goodly tree, the root whereof is set firm, its bran h in the heaven= !t bringeth forth its fruit at every time, by the leave of its >ord. Thus doth /od oin likenesses for men, that perhaps they may refle t. &nd the likeness of an evil word is that of an evil tree that hath been torn up by the root from upon the earth, possessed of no stability. & ording to the s holars of tafsir 6e#egesis7, the referen e here is to the 'words' 6kalima7 of faith and unfaith. The former is illustrated as a natural growth, whose flores en e of moral and intelle tual a hievement is nourished by firm roots, whi h in turn denote the basis of faith9 the $uality of the proofs one has re eived, and the ertainty and sound awareness of /od whi h alone signify that one is firmly grounded in the reality of e#isten e. The fruits thus yielded % the palpable benefits of the religious life % are permanent 6'at every time'7, and are not man's own a omplishment, for they only ome 'by the leave of its >ord'. Thus is the sound life of faith. The ontrast is then drawn with the only alternative9 kufr, whi h is not grounded in reality but in illusion, and is hen e 'possessed of no stability'.3:5 This passage, reminis ent of some of the binary ategorisations of human types presented early on in Surat al-Baqara, pre isely en apsulates the relationship between faith and works, the hierar hy whi h e#ists between them, and the sustainable balan e between nourishment and fru tition, between taking and giving, whi h true faith must maintain. !t is against this riterion that we must (udge the $uality of ontemporary 'a tivist' styles of faith. !s the young 'ultra', with his intense rage whi h an sometimes render him liable to nervous disorders, and his fi#ation on a relatively narrow range of issues and on erns, really firmly rooted, and fruitful, in the sense des ribed by this 1urani image= >et me point to the answer with an e#ample drawn from my own e#perien e. ! used to know, $uite well, a leader of the radi al '!slami ' group, the Jama'at Islamiya, at the "gyptian university of &ssiut. 0is name was 0amdi. 0e grew a lu#uriant beard, was onstantly s rubbing his teeth with his miswak, and spent his time prea hing hatred of the Copti Christians, a number of whom were a tually atta ked and beaten up as a result of his khutbas. 0e had hundreds of followers? in fa t, &ssiut today remains a itadel of hardline, Wahhabi%style a tivism.

The moral of the story is that some five years after this a $uaintan e, providen e again brought me fa e to fa e with Shaikh 0amdi. This time, han ing to see him on a Cairo street, ! almost failed to re ognise him. The beard was gone. 0e was in trousers and a sweater. More astonishing still was that he was walking with a young Western girl who turned out to be an &ustralian, whom, as he sheepishly e#plained to me, he was intending to marry. ! talked to him, and it be ame lear that he was no longer even a minimally observant Muslim, no longer prayed, and that his ambition in life was to leave "gypt, live in &ustralia, and make money. What was e#traordinary was that his e#perien es in !slami a tivism had made no impression on him % he was on e again the same distra ted, ordinary "gyptian youth he had been before his onversion to 'radi al !slam'. This phenomenon, whi h we might label 'salafi burnout', is a re ognised feature of many modern Muslim ultures. &n initial enthusiasm, gained usually in one's early twenties, loses steam some seven to ten years later. )rison and torture % the fre$uent lot of the !slami radi al % may serve to prolong ommitment, but ultimately, a ma(ority of these neo%Muslims relapse, seemingly no better or worse for their e#perien e in the ult%like universe of the salafi mindset. This ephemerality of e#tremist a tivism should be as suspi ious as its ontent. &uthenti Muslim faith is simply not supposed to be this fragile? as the 1ur'an says, its root is meant to be 'set firm'. @ne has to on lude that of the two trees depi ted in the 1urani image, salafi e#tremism resembles the se ond rather than the first. &fter all, the Sahaba were not known for a transient ommitment9 their devotion and piety remained in omparably pure until they died. What attra ts young Muslims to this type of ephemeral but fero ious a tivism= @ne does not have to subs ribe to determinist so ial theories to realise the importan e of the almost universal ondition of inse urity whi h Muslim so ieties are now e#perien ing. The !slami world is passing through a most devastating period of transition. & history of e onomi and s ientifi hange whi h in "urope took five hundred years, is, in the Muslim world, being s$uee'ed into a ouple of generations. *or instan e, only thirty%five years ago the apital of Saudi &rabia was a luster of mud huts, as it had been for thousands of years. Today's -iyadh is a hi%te h mega ity of glass towers, Coke ma hines, and gliding Cadilla s. This is an e#treme ase, but to some e#tent the dislo ations of modernity are ommon to every Muslim so iety, e# epting, perhaps, a handful of the most remote tribal peoples. Su h a transition period, with its entrifugal for es whi h allow nothing to remain onstant, makes human beings very inse ure. They look around for something to hold onto, that will give them an identity. !n our ase, that something is usually !slam. &nd be ause they are being propelled into it by this psy hi sense of inse urity, rather than by the more normal pro esses of onversion and faith, they la k some of the natural religious virtues, whi h are

a $uired by onta t with a ontinuous tradition, and an never be learnt from a book. @ne easily visualises how this works. & young &rab, part of an oversi'ed family, ompeting for s ar e (obs, unable to marry be ause he is poor, perhaps a migrant to a rapidly e#panding ity, feels like a man lost in a desert without signposts. @ne morning he pi ks up a opy of Sayyid 1utb from a newsstand, and is 'born%again' on the spot. This is what he needed9 instant ertainty, a framework in whi h to interpret the lands ape before him, to resolve the problems and tensions of his life, and, even more deli iously, a way of feeling superior and in ontrol. 0e (oins a group, and, an#ious to retain his newfound ertainty, a epts the usual proposition that all the other groups are mistaken. This, of ourse, is not how Muslim religious onversion is supposed to work. !t is meant to be a pro ess of intelle tual maturation, triggered by the presen e of a very holy person or pla e. Tawba, in its traditional form, yields an outlook of (oy, ontentment, and a deep affe tion for others. The modern type of tawba, however, born of inse urity, often makes Muslims narrow, intolerant, and e# lusivist. "ven more noti eably, it produ es people whose faith is, despite its apparent intensity, liable to vanish as suddenly as it ame. +eprived of real nourishment, the a tivist's soul an only grow hungry and ema iated, until at last it dies. THE A!TIVISM "ITHI 0ow should we respond to this disorder= We must begin by remembering what !slam is for. &s we noted earlier, our din is not, ultimately, a manual of rules whi h, when meti ulously followed, be omes a passport to paradise. !nstead, it is a pa kage of so ial, intelle tual and spiritual te hnology whose purpose is to leanse the human heart. !n the 1ur'an, the >ord says that on the +ay of Audgement, nothing will be of any use to us, e# ept a sound heart 6qalbun salim7. 385 &nd in a famous hadith, the )rophet, upon whom be blessings and pea e, says that 2Berily in the body there is a pie e of flesh. !f it is sound, the body is all sound. !f it is orrupt, the body is all orrupt. Berily, it is the heart. Mindful of this ommandment, under whi h all the other ommandments of !slam are subsumed, and whi h alone gives them meaning, the !slami s holars have worked out a s ien e, an ilm 6s ien e7, of analysing the 'states' of the heart, and the methods of bringing it into this ondition of soundness. !n the fullness of time, this s ien e a $uired the name tasawwuf, in "nglish 'Sufism' % a traditional label for what we might nowadays more intelligibly all '!slami psy hology.' &t this point, many ha kles are raised and well%rehearsed ob(e tions voi ed. !t is vital to understand that mainstream Sufism is not, and never has been, a do trinal system, or a s hool of thought % a madhhab. !t is, instead, a set of insights and pra ti es whi h operate within the various !slami madhhabs? in other words, it is not a madhhab, it is an ilm. &nd like most of the other

!slami ulum, it was not known by name, or in its later developed form, in the age of the )rophet 6upon him be blessings and pea e7 or his Companions. This does not make it less legitimate. There are many !slami s ien es whi h only took shape many years after the )ropheti age9 usul al-fiqh, for instan e, or the innumerable te hni al dis iplines of hadith. .ow this, of ourse, leads us into the often misunderstood area of sunna and bid'a, two notions whi h are wielded as blunt instruments by many ontemporary a tivists, but whi h are often grossly misunderstood. The lassi @rientalist thesis is of ourse that !slam, as an 'arid Semiti religion', failed to in orporate me hanisms for its own development, and that it petrified upon the death of its founder. This, however, is a nonsense rooted in the ethni determinism of the nineteenth entury historians who had shaped the views of the early @rientalist synthesi'ers 6Muir, >e Bon, -enan, Caetani7. !slam, as the religion designed for the end of time, has in fa t proved itself eminently adaptable to the rapidly hanging onditions whi h hara terise this final and most 'entropi ' stage of history. What is a bid'a, a ording to the lassi al definitions of !slami law= We all know the famous hadith9 Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidan e, and every misguidan e is in 0ell. 3;5 +oes this mean that everything introdu ed into !slam that was not known to the first generation of Muslims is to be re(e ted= The lassi al ulema do not a ept su h a literalisti interpretation. >et us take a definition from !mam al%Shafi'i, an authority universally a epted in Sunni !slam. !mam al%Shafi'i writes9 There are two kinds of introdu ed matters 6muhdathat7. @ne is that whi h ontradi ts a te#t of the 1ur'an, or the Sunna, or a report from the early Muslims 6athar7, or the onsensus 6ijma'7 of the Muslims9 this is an 'innovation of misguidan e' 6bid'at dalala7. The se ond kind is that whi h is in itself good and entails no ontradi tion of any of these authorities9 this is a 'non%reprehensible innovation' 6bid'a ghayr madhmuma7. #$% This basi distin tion between a eptable and una eptable forms of bid'a is re ognised by the overwhelming ma(ority of lassi al ulema. &mong some, for instan e al%!'' ibn &bd al%Salam 6one of the half%do'en or so great mu(tahids of !slami history7, innovations fall under the five a#iologi al headings of the Shari'a9 the obligatory 6wajib7, the re ommended 6mandub7, the permissible 6mubah7, the offensive 6makruh7, and the forbidden 6haram7.3<5 Cnder the ategory of 'obligatory innovation', !bn &bd al%Salam gives the following e#amples9 re ording the 1ur'an and the laws of !slam in writing at a time when it was feared that they would be lost, studying &rabi grammar in order to resolve ontroversies over the 1ur'an, and developing philosophi al theology 6kalam7 to refute the laims of the Mu'ta'ilites. Category two is 're ommended innovation'. Cnder this heading the ulema list su h a tivities as building madrasas, writing books on benefi ial !slami sub(e ts, and in%depth studies of &rabi linguisti s.

Category three is 'permissible', or 'neutral innovation', in luding worldly a tivities su h as sifting flour, and onstru ting houses in various styles not known in Medina. Category four is the 'reprehensible innovation'. This in ludes su h misdemeanours as overde orating mos$ues or the 1ur'an. Category five is the 'forbidden innovation'. This in ludes unlawful ta#es, giving (udgeships to those un$ualified to hold them, and se tarian beliefs and pra ti es that e#pli itly ontravene the known prin iples of the 1ur'an and the Sunna. The above lassifi ation of bid'a types is normal in lassi al Shari'a literature, being a epted by the four s hools of orthodo# fiqh. There have been only two signifi ant e# eptions to this understanding in the history of !slami thought9 the Dahiri s hool as arti ulated by !bn 0a'm, and one wing of the 0anbali madhhab, represented by !bn Taymiya, who goes against the lassi al ijma' on this issue, and laims that all forms of innovation, good or bad, are un% !slami . Why is it, then, that so many Muslims now believe that innovation in any form is una eptable in !slam= @ne fa tor has already been tou hed on9 the mental omple#es thrown up by inse urity, whi h in line people to find omfort in absolutist and literalist interpretations. &nother lies in the influen e of the well%finan ed neo%0anbali madhhab alled Wahhabism, whose leaders are famous for their re(e tion of all possibility of development. !n any ase, armed with this more sophisti ated and lassi al awareness of !slam's ability to a knowledge and assimilate novelty, we an understand how Muslim ivilisation was able so $ui kly to produ e novel a ademi dis iplines to deal with new problems as these arose. !slami psy hology is hara teristi of the new ulum whi h, although present in latent and impli it form in the 1uran, were first systemati'ed in !slami ulture during the early &bbasid period. /iven the importan e that the 1uran atta hes to obtaining a 'sound heart', we are not surprised to find that the influen e of !slami psy hology has been massive and all%pervasive. !n the formative first four enturies of !slam, the time when the great works of tafsir, hadith, grammar, and so forth were laid down, the ulema also applied their minds to this problem of al-qalb al-salim. This was first visible when, following the e#ample of the Tabi'in, many of the early as eti s, su h as Sufyan ibn Cyayna, Sufyan al%Thawri, and &bdallah ibn al%Mubarak, had fo ussed their on erns e#pli itly on the art of purifying the heart. The methods they re ommended were fre$uent fasting and night prayer, periodi retreats, and a preo upation with murabata9 servi e as volunteer fighters in the border astles of &sia Minor. This type of pietist orientation was not in the least systemati during this period. !t was a loose ategory embra ing all Muslims who sought salvation through the )ropheti virtues of renun iation, sin erity, and deep devotion to the revelation. These men and women were variously referred to as al-

bakka'un9 'the weepers', be ause of their fear of the +ay of Audgement, or as zuhhad, as eti s, or ubbad, 'un easing worshippers'. By the third entury, however, we start to find writings whi h an be understood as belonging to a distin t devotional s hool. The in reasing lu#ury and materialism of &bbasid urban so iety spurred many Muslims to ampaign for a restoration of the simpli ity of the )ropheti age. )urity of heart, ompassion for others, and a onstant re olle tion of /od were the defining features of this trend. We find referen es to the method of muhasaba9 self%e#amination to dete t impurities of intention. &lso stressed was riyada9 self%dis ipline. By this time, too, the main outlines of 1urani psy hology had been worked out. The human reature, it was realised, was made up of four onstituent parts9 the body 6jism7, the mind 6aql7, the spirit 6ruh7, and the self 6nafs7. The first two need little omment. >ess familiar 6at least to people of a modern edu ation7 are the third and fourth ategories. The spirit is the ruh, that underlying essen e of the human individual whi h survives death. !t is hard to omprehend rationally, being in part of +ivine inspiration, as the 1uran says9 2&nd they ask you about the spirit? say, the spirit is of the ommand of my >ord. &nd you have been given of knowledge only a little.23E5 & ording to the early !slami psy hologists, the ruh is a non%material reality whi h pervades the entire human body, but is entred on the heart, the qalb. !t represents that part of man whi h is not of this world, and whi h onne ts him with his Creator, and whi h, if he is fortunate, enables him to see /od in the ne#t world. When we are born, this ruh is inta t and pure. &s we are initiated into the distra tions of the world, however, it is overed over with the 'rust' 6ran7 of whi h the 1uran speaks. This rust is made up of two things9 sin and distra tion. When, through the pro ess of self%dis ipline, these are banished, so that the worshipper is preserved from sin and is fo ussing entirely on the immediate presen e and reality of /od, the rust is dissolved, and the ruh on e again is free. The heart is sound? and salvation, and loseness to /od, are a hieved. This sounds simple enough. 0owever, the early Muslims taught that su h pre ious things ome only at an appropriate pri e. Cleaning up the &ugean stables of the heart is a most e# ru iating hallenge. @utward onformity to the rules of religion is simple enough? but it is only the first step. Mu h more demanding is the poli y known as mujahada9 the daily ombat against the lower self, the nafs. &s the 1uran says9 '&s for him that fears the standing before his >ord, and forbids his nafs its desires, for him, 0eaven shall be his pla e of resort.'3F5 0en e the Sufi ommandment9 'Slaughter your ego with the knives of mujahada.' 3G5 @n e the nafs is ontrolled, then the heart is lear, and the virtues pro eed from it easily and naturally.

Be ause its ob(e tive is nothing less than salvation, this vital !slami s ien e has been onsistently e#pounded by the great s holars of lassi al !slam. While today there are many Muslims, influen ed by either Wahhabi or @rientalist agendas, who believe that Sufism has always led a somewhat marginal e#isten e in !slam, the reality is that the overwhelming ma(ority of the lassi al s holars were a tively involved in Sufism. The early Shafi'i s holars of ,hurasan9 al%0akim al%.isaburi, !bn *urak, al% 1ushayri and al%Bayha$i, were all Sufis who formed links in the ri hest a ademi tradition of &bbasid !slam, whi h ulminated in the a hievement of !mam 0u((at al%!slam al%/ha'ali. /ha'ali himself, author of some three hundred books, in luding the definitive rebuttals of &rab philosophy and the !smailis, three large te#tbooks of Shafi'i fiqh, the best%known tra t of usul alfiqh, two works on logi , and several theologi al treatises, also left us with the lassi statement of orthodo# Sufism9 the Ihya Ulum al-Din, a book of whi h !mam .awawi remarked9 2Were the books of !slam all to be lost, e# epting only the Ihya', it would suffi e to repla e them all.2 34H5 !mam .awawi himself wrote two books whi h re ord his debt to Sufism, one alled the Bustan al-Arifin 6'/arden of the /nosti s', and another alled the al-Maqasid 6re ently published in "nglish translation, Sunna Books, "vanston !l. trans. .uh 0a Mim ,eller7. &mong the Malikis, too, Sufism was popular. &l%Sawi, al%+ardir, al%>a$$ani and &bd al%Wahhab al%Baghdadi were all e#ponents of Sufism. The Maliki (urist of Cairo, &bd al%Wahhab al%Sha'rani defines Sufism as follows9 'The path of the Sufis is built on the 1uran and the Sunna, and is based on living a ording to the morals of the prophets and the purified ones. !t may not be blamed, unless it violates an e#pli it statement from the 1uran, sunna, or ijma. !f it does not ontravene any of these sour es, then no prete#t remains for ondemning it, e# ept one's own low opinion of others, or interpreting what they do as ostentation, whi h is unlawful. .o%one denies the states of the Sufis e# ept someone ignorant of the way they are.'3445 *or 0anbali Sufism one has to look no further than the revered figures of &bdallah &nsari, &bd al%1adir al%Ailani, !bn al%Aaw'i, and !bn -a(ab. !n fa t, virtually all the great luminaries of medieval !slam9 al%Suyuti, !bn 0a(ar al%&s$alani, al%&yni, !bn ,haldun, al%Subki, !bn 0a(ar al%0aytami? tafsir writers like Baydawi, al%Sawi, &bu'l%Su'ud, al%Baghawi, and !bn ,athir34:5 ? aqida writers su h as Tafta'ani, al%.asafi, al%-a'i9 all wrote in support of Sufism. Many, indeed, omposed independent works of Sufi inspiration. The ulema of the great dynasties of !slami history, in luding the @ttomans and the Moghuls, were deeply infused with the Sufi outlook, regarding it as one of the most entral and indispensable of !slami s ien es. *urther onfirmation of the !slami legitima y of Sufism is supplied by the enthusiasm of its e#ponents for arrying !slam beyond the boundaries of the !slami world. The !slami'ation pro ess in !ndia, Bla k &fri a, and South% "ast &sia was arried out largely at the hands of wandering Sufi tea hers.

>ikewise, the !slami obligation of (ihad has been borne with espe ial 'eal by the Sufi orders. &ll the great nineteenth entury (ihadists9 Cthman dan *odio 60ausaland7, al%Sanousi 6>ibya7, &bd al%1adir al%Aa'a'iri 6&lgeria7, !mam Shamil 6+aghestan7 and the leaders of the )adre -ebellion 6Sumatra7 were a tive pra titioners of Sufism, writing e#tensively on it while on their ampaigns. .othing is further from reality, in fa t, than the laim that Sufism represents a $uietist and non%militant form of !slam. With all this, we onfront a parado#. Why is it, if Sufism has been so respe ted a part of Muslim intelle tual and politi al life throughout our history, that there are, nowadays, angry voi es raised against it= There are two fundamental reasons here. *irstly, there is again the pervasive influen e of @rientalist s holarship, whi h, at least before 4G:: when Massignon wrote his Essai sur l s ori!in s d la l "iqu t #hniqu , was of the opinion that something so fertile and profound as Sufism ould never have grown from the essentially 'barren and legalisti ' soil of !slam. @rientalist works translated into Muslim languages were influential upon key Muslim modernists % su h as Muhammad &bduh in his later writings % who began to $uestion the entrality, or even the legitima y, of Sufi dis ourse in !slam. Se ondly, there is the emergen e of the Wahhabi da'wa. When Muhammad ibn &bd al%Wahhab, some two hundred years ago, teamed up with the Saudi tribe and atta ked the neighbouring lans, he was doing so under the sign of an essentially neo%,hari(ite version of !slam. &lthough he invoked !bn Taymiya, he had reservations even about him. *or !bn Taymiya himself, although riti al of the e# esses of ertain Sufi groups, had been ommitted to a bran h of mainstream Sufism. This is lear, for instan e, in !bn Taymiya's work $harh %utuh al-&hayb, a ommentary on some te hni al points in the ' ( lations of th Uns n, a key work by the si#th% entury saint of Baghdad, &bd al%1adir al%Ailani. Throughout the work !bn Taymiya shows himself to be a loyal dis iple of al%Ailani, whom he always refers to as shaykhuna 6'our tea her'7. This 1adiri affiliation is onfirmed in the later literature of the 1adiri tari$a, whi h re ords !bn Taymiya as a key link in the silsila, the hain of transmission of 1adiri tea hings.3485 !bn &bd al%Wahhab, however, went far beyond this. -aised in the wastelands of .a(d in Central &rabia, he had little a ess to mainstream Muslim s holarship. !n fa t, when his da'wa appeared and be ame notorious, the s holars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous 0adith of .a(d9 !bn Cmar reported the )rophet 6upon whom be blessings and pea e7 as saying9 2@h /od, bless us in our Syria? @ /od, bless us in our Iemen.2 Those present said9 2&nd in our .a(d, @ Messenger of /odJ2 but he said, 2@ /od, bless us in our Syria? @ /od, bless us in our Iemen.2 Those present said, 2&nd in our .a(d, @ Messenger of /odJ2. !bn Cmar said that he thought that he said on the third o asion9 2"arth$uakes and dissensions 6 fitna7 are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil.234;5

&nd it is signifi ant that almost uni$uely among the lands of !slam, .a(d has never produ ed s holars of any repute. The .a(d%based da'wa of the Wahhabis, however, began to be heard more loudly following the e#plosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, !slami publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, whi h prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works onsidered una eptable to Wahhabist do trine. The neo%,hari(ite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of !slami e#pression. 0owever, be ause it has no oherent fiqh of its own % it re(e ts the orthodo# madhhabs % and has only the most basi and primitively anthropomorphi aqida, it has a fluid, amoebalike tenden y to produ e divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. .o longer are the !slami groups essentially united by a onsistent madhhab and the &sh'ari 3or Maturidi5 aqida. !nstead, they are all trying to derive the shari'a and the aqida from the 1uran and the Sunna by themselves. The result is the appalling state of division and onfli t whi h disfigures the modern salafi ondition. &t this riti al moment in our history, the umma has only one realisti hope for survival, and that is to restore the 'middle way', defined by that sophisti ated lassi al onsensus whi h was worked out over painful enturies of debate and s holarship. That onsensus alone has the demonstrable ability to provide a basis for unity. But it an only be retrieved when we improve the state of our hearts, and fill them with the !slami virtues of affe tion, respe t, toleran e and re on iliation. This inner reform, whi h is the traditional ompeten e of Sufism, is a pre ondition for the restoration of unity in the !slami movement. The alternative is likely to be ontinued, and agonising, failure. OTES 4. Sura 48944. :. *or a further analysis of this passage, see 0abib &hmad Mashhur al% 0addad, ) y to th &ard n 61uilliam )ress, >ondon 4GGH C"7, EF%F4. 8. Sura :<9FG. The ar hetype is &brahami 9 see Sura 8E9F;. ;. This hadith is in fa t an instan e of takhsis al-amm9 a fre$uent pro edure of usul al-fiqh by whi h an apparently un$ualified statement is $ualified to avoid the ontradi tion of another ne essary prin iple. See &hmad ibn .a$ib al%Misri, ' lian# of th *ra( ll r, tr. .uh 0a Mim ,eller 6&bu +habi, 4GG4 C"7, GHE%F for some further e#amples.

K. !bn &sakir, *abyin )adhib al-Muftari 6+amas us, 48;E7, GE. <. Cited in Muhammad al%Aurdani, al-Jawahir al-lu'lu'iyya fi sharh alArba'in al-+awawiya 6+amas us, 48:F7, ::H%4. E. 4E9FK. F. EG9;H. G. al%1ushayri, al-'isala 6Cairo, n.d.7, !, 8G8. 4H. al%Dabidi, Ithaf al-sada al-muttaqin 6Cairo, 48447, !, :E. 44. Sha'rani, al-*abaqat al-)ubra 6Cairo, 48E;7, !, ;. 4:. !t is true that !bn ,athir in his Bidaya is riti al of some later Sufis. .onetheless, in his Mawlid, whi h he asked his pupils to re ite on the o asion of the Blessed )rophet's birthday ea h year, he makes his personal debt to a onservative and sober Sufism $uite lear. 48. See /. Makdisi's arti le 'Ibn *aymiyya, A $ufi of th -adiriya .rd r' in the &meri an Aournal of &rabi Studies, 4GE8. 4;. .arrated by Bukhari. The translation is from A. -obson, Mishkat alMasabih 6>ahore, 4GEH7, !!, 48FH.