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DECIPHERING THE SIGNS OF GOD A Phenomenological Approach to Islam FNCU TURN CO NTT ESE DECIPHERING THE SIGNS OF GOD PSS reneroeste PN yecc cs ney Atay Annemarie Schimmel ‘ 4 oe ee sums up a lifetime of scholarhip on Islam and, more Se a ee Se ee a er ee Cire meen traditions. 1 willbe looked back upon as a landmark in bringing Islamic See eee nr at ees ee nee nets are hidden ‘in the horizons and in themselves.’ This book examines the ‘mysteries of Islam using a phenomenological method to come clover tothe Een rt ere el Ce ec eee ee Tare ae ear aera er one ei Cnn eae eerie rt Ce een et ne ee ers ee a era eet ea een er enn "Annemarie Schimmel was for many yeas Professor of Indo Muslim Cute ke rn tee ery ers Tere cetera re ee Rs ee rr a es Maslin Spstuaity in South Asia. Among the mre ural honors that av Ce ee ee ere er nen ats eS oe reat oe State University of New York Press es i Peed Wu Deciphering the Signs of God A Phenomenological Approach to Islam ANNEMARIE SCHIMMEL STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS To the memory of Friedrich Heiler (1892-1967) © Anema Sei, 904 A igh eee Nop his pbleaon ‘ney be roel amie, 2) eee ee ee ot plied "USA by Se Unive Nw York Pes ‘xbaay or rman, aren Sate Unive of New York Pre, ‘Se Une Pas, ary NY og Print in Gra rn hear of Congres Cason in Pbinon Dita Sebi, Anema "ping Got e phenom era 6 Te tsp rp 98 and inde BN omtrgis BBN otter kt nisias oe sreaon a Contents List of Abbreviations “ Preface vi Inxeoduetion ix 1. Sacred Aspects of Nature and Culture 1 1, Sacred Syme and Time e ML. Sacred Action & IV. The Word andthe Script 1 V. Individval and Sociesy 7 VI. God and is Creation Eschatology 219 VI. How to Approach Isa? 43 Bibliography 8 Incices 80 List of Abbreviations Preface 4 Enya of an, an ein, Leiden 1954- 1s Enlai of Rain an Bie Hastings, 190 Xe lon Cul, Hyderabad Deccan ‘me Jona of the Bish Ist of Prion Sates Jounal diate 0s Foamel fh rion Ovi Sig ‘ros Joumal fhe Palen Owl Sey as Jaumal fhe Ral diate Sry Ne Manse mae, Ras ed. Nicholson we The Mo ater: Min) Weld sr Ra des Bae sigs 20 Die Rg in Gat nd Cgc, eon tom Ra de Hii des Regis Sk Joma of he Sine Sg f Sah Wes dice Die Wl der lens ean Ww Zeisler i ind de Morea {IMG Zechf de Dehn Mogens Geach "To deliver the Gir Leura «grat honour aed pele fr any chair working inthe general eld of religion’, an Tam deeply gratfal the Trates ofthe Gilford Lectures for having invited me to speak in Eainburgh nthe spring fof 199 an experience whieh I thoroughly enoyed. Yet tthe same dine, he lecturer overehckned by the rates oft o her tious predetenory, i twoubed by the question of whether one can relly do fl jc to the chosen topic ~in this case, a phenomencogical approach to Islan. It probably ses prepoerous to ive a seeping survey of eiferentapees of lam, a religion thick hasbeen mach studied, mach misunderstood, ad sometines acc by Fmorian of religon as being rather primitive. At the ame me, however, scholarly sty of Iam har i recent yeas atraced more and more people, spacted on bythe pltcal developmensin the Musim word and in other ares Tnereasngypopslted by Muti. Needle oy, many ofthese polical and sociological sures have ie interest in the spiritual values of Iam, ested ranging fom questons of religious authority 0 the pion of den in ‘medieval Masi sciey fom Mim responses to Wester edvation to the ‘hanging role of the Sul; fom the mechanics of conversion wo the formation sl incon of the biosphere ia the Koran and concerning the question of han ight ad her nplernentaton inthe modern word Indeed, i wa hi cergroming amount of Btratire which made me decide to avd lengthy and tlahorsterelerences and to mendon inthe Blsboraphy only works actually Cited in the text or te notes beg the readers dlgence fr thin way of apn the material "The Lectares hive grown out of ion eccupaton with the ngage and ‘ales of ia, nd ro inumerable seuss with Musi fiends, whether highly learned and coptiticsed scholars in the Mum feds and in the por, or mpl, terse ilager,parculaly women, in Pabinan, Inia land Turkey. They we much to the ispzaon of ty academic teaches in [damic Staie~ Richard Harmann, Hane Heinrich Schaeder and Erst line! in etn, o meson aly the mat rportnt ones — but even more to ‘ny collaboration with Fiedach Heder, who opened the word ofthe hiery of religions tome, There Lectures ae dediated ois memory. inlay, I wosld ‘et thank my scents in Marburg, Ankara, Boon and Harvard, aswell as ny Sends and al shove who have patient tenet ay ete in Easope, North America and the Near and Middle East, and who have alerted me to new aspect of Klamie tought, art and poetry. 1am very gratfl to Dr Shams [Anwatiellonyni, Calg or adoming the book wih hi caligraphic render Ings of Koronc verses alo expres my grade omy "wring ange, Christa Sadoaay sin Caloge, who sped the manusrp, and to Mr vor Nommand vi, in Edinburg, for his cael and meticulous copyediting ofthe text. The Swedin Lutheran bishop and Mami, Tor Andre, wo whom we one some of the most sensive work boat the Prophet Muhammad as well 2 about ‘aly Sufism, once remarked ike say novenent inthe rel of ideas, reli ith hae the same ‘ght wo be judged according wo ts eal and erable intentions and not ‘cording t the way in wich human weakzes and meanness may Tv fieed and maimed i ideal ‘Thying to approach Irn with thie in mind, hope da he Lectares may help to any seme of the structures undeying le and thought i Isa, Depending om their eld of iueret and speciation, readers wll no doubt be able wo ad merous parallels ae infences, bath fem Iam sources and from ther Telgions However, when such parallels are drawn bere, ic i not sith the incenton of vein onthe Rese arabiachen Hesdenuna’ again, as does Jas Welacn's casi of tat mame 85) nor do I wane prove, or suggest hat thigor dha external induence has determined the development of ls. Nobody lees that uc ndluences ext ia am fora religion can growin 3 vacua, tnd the refgow leader, founder o prophet ean only ever use the language to Wich his Keness are ~at lea to & certain extent ~ accustomed, and whose lnnages and aymbs they underand, Withost 0, i, xin and ferizaon by inet no tee ~ and we may wel compre reign to a “ood te’ (ef Sara pay) ~ col ever grow stn enough to owe ids orto provide shade ae ‘ncous fit othe who come clone to (a Matas Rans says in the story ‘of Dagoa in his Mina, TM 30) But these inflaenes are not absolute “ea elision takes nt uf ony hoe ideas, customs and endencies which se in one way or anther compatible with its innermost enence. Funhemmar, sorry elon hasan outward and inward aspect, any sentence, proposition ot leg prescription may be understood and interpceted iferny by dierent people. Agvol iil come to mind: he wate aes te cour ofthe gas, oF tle th ‘white radiance of eter’, the cooures Light, becomes vise ony in ft efeins in ever-changing colours My sim eco pot to the colour resins, Goethe's biger Abana’ cr in Korane words, to yt decipher some ofthe signs, or a, wich throu Shee nite vay pint othe Ove Truth Introduction’ ‘An We sa soe de Oa sg inthe barsen an in hems. “When Iwas caching the sory of lions at dhe Mari Fauly of Divinity in Ankars i the 1950 I ied explain wo my stents Rudolf O's dsincon between the myer fndon aod the mda econ ~ the Numen tat reveals elf under the aspect of awe-nmpiing majexty and fcinating beauty Sudely one ofthe adres ood up and sid proudly: ‘Bu, rots, we ‘Mame ve own that centre. Gd has wo aspects: His majesty, power and wath ~ aed ism Reauy, Kindness and mens Ever sine ‘hen, ees of approaching Islam from a phenomenological angle hasbeen on ‘ny mind, all he more beeaise T kept Satg that lam was badly ia al) repretented in the fw major books inthis, as though historian frelon sell nese the admonition ote eighteenth century German hiker Reimar {iam convinced that among those who accuse dhe Tush religion of thi or that fault ont avery few have read the Alcan, and that | ‘ong hone who indeed have read only precious fe ved he intention of giving the words the sound meatng of which they ae capable. Fc many historians of region, Mar, a Iatecomer in story, till not much snore dan a Crisis heey, at was repeatedly eal for cents unl he time of Adaif yon Harack, or ebe an anti-Christian, inhuman, primitive religion — lest which one now encounters rather Gequendy owing tthe polial sation in the warsorn Mice East and the ev of fundamentals ‘rope. However, the problem ie how te give an accurate picture oa religion that stetches fon ie eal, Arabia, to the eat through major pats of ia, into central China and Indonesia and the Piippines, and to the wet over “Turkey and pat ofthe Ballas to Noein Afea and its Alan borders; that appear in various parts of Back Afica and gaia new conver inthe tao (Chistian areas such a Europe and America, party a a est of he increasing ‘number of immigrant fom the Maal wi, pury als by eonveson wo hi for tat branch of lam, Sufism, psevdoSufsm, o fundamental ake 2 sefgon whose sacred serps reveled in Arabi, but whee pasipans tare ‘compoted and sl connie to compose Sumerable works ~ dhoogcal and literary catechism and pote, newspapers and itorcal sues in a pehora cof languages among which Arabi, Pera, Turki, Ur and Swahil boas an Inexhaunble rare of igh and popular erature, no: wo mention theater ‘ios ~ with Arabic all ruling supreme in te regions sphere. Nobody ca follow vp the everincreang number of publeatns ia the various fs of Isai sts either, ad thas he rscreher els banicapped and somewhat hopeless when tying to wet about Iam, tnd a strate that could do jute to ths often maligned religion, and to embed iio the generality of religion, Tei cesinty pousble to learn about Kia by sing the verte, that i, isto method, andthe sudy of ie hoy ern day by day thanks © documents that come to ight fom the enormow but barely tapped souees in raisin East and Wes iter overlooked incrigxon in a moxque in “Zamibar ora Muslin poem na south Incanto can open uprising sights ‘nto certsn storia developers as can a completly fe look atthe very beans of lamieevization. “One can abo use croseeedons to step to categorize irene aspects of Iam by type of region. Here, the taditonal contest of ‘prophet’ and ‘mystical regions as elaborated by Nathan Soderblom and Feed Heder ifr uel comfortably, with Ia apparendy consining = paradigm of a ‘pope eign whic, howeve, tempered by 8 strong sand of lain on the one hat and mysticism in te diferent forms on the eter hand. One ‘casi sty fom ological viewpoint and loka he human conto; stscts and social group; the elation beawcen mater and dace; tend 0 “ively and to expansion by ether mion or wae fe approaches it by spplving te dierent concept of the Disoe, one wil find an uncompromising Imonotheim which, however, snes tums into ‘panthcine’™ or monisic trends by ovestesing the onenes ofthe Divine. “Agtin, one may ask about it attde ward the world whetherit i wodd- negating, ike Badism (an atte that appears among the cl Sali), oF \rrk-dominatng, ke maioteam normative am. What are its psychological peclias and how des the Mii react othe encounter wih the One God ome moved predariamly by awe, fear, hope and love, or does one simply feel umsskable fh and erst? ‘All thew approaches are val and fer dhe researcher ways to understand 4 religion, i this cate Mam, somewhat beuer. However, more than oer branches of scholarship, the study of religion beset wih dill, the mes imparan one being the neem of formulating one's ance on the object of fone’ reicarch while atthe sae Se swpending judgment, since one i eating wth someting which, aie all consttes the most sacred ate i he {ves of eilions of people, Can one really deal with religion ~in general or in i apecic fms — ae fone were dealing with anyother obec of dy, si nowadays claimed by many historians ofrlgon? Personally, I wonder i Completely objective study of liga spsuible when one respects the sphere ofthe Numinows and the feng ofthe otbereelly in one's approach, and realizes tht one i dealing with actions, though syems and human action ‘and responses to something that Hes outside purely ‘sciemife!research, Ite theretore fe to remain danced when dealing with elon, and ‘the peronal bis of the eetcacher cane but be rete in the dy ~ a bin ‘wih in yea, certainly leant more toward the myricl ana posal end ‘side Iam than toward its Iga pet, which, in any ease, no the eat wth here (although i would be most welcome to iaepret the refined ami legal system and its aplicaions in 4 compreenve comparative wer. Th the rare exer where hntoriane of religion have vemred to ioc specimens of Mamie clere ino their phenomenology, the lack of Hague skill say vile, and the tendency ory upon largely outdated translations ‘he Ind to aang shits in emphasis, sich athe ciproporsonate se of od itamlatios of Pian poetry in which the imagery of sered intsaton and cevasy abounds, These ences certainly have the place in Sufi, but ‘hold be sewed in elton tothe els of mainream Iam [Nevertiles, cv tha he phenomenological approach well mito a beer undemtading of slam, espeaally tbe model which Fhedreh Heer