1 minute read

Islamic Mysticism in Asia

Doctrine And Practices

Sufis are motivated by the desire to have a direct, personal experience of God while they are still alive, rather than waiting until after resurrection when, according to Muslim belief, all human beings will share this experience. The direct experience of God is considered so overwhelming as to be indescribable and can only be spoken about in metaphors, the most commonly used ones being those of falling in love and of being intoxicated with wine. These images are frequently encountered in Sufi literature, particularly in poetry, which tries to express the indescribable joy that Sufis experience through their relationship with God, combined with the heartache of being separated from Him.

The Sufi concept of union with God is expressed in many different ways. The main problem in Sufi philosophical circles is how a mortal human being can unite with the omnipotent, omniscient deity who is unlike us in every way. The union with God is normally called fana ', which literally means "destruction" or "annihilation." Sufis believe that in the final stage of an individual's spiritual development, she loses any consciousness of her individual identity and is only aware of the identity of God. In effect, God's identity then replaces the identity of the Sufi.

There is disagreement among Sufis over whether the final spiritual goal of Sufism is to lose one's identity completely in the identity of God or to reach a stage where one's own concerns no longer prevent us from seeing the world in its true nature. A common metaphor for the first approach is to describe the Sufi's individuality as a drop that vanishes into the ocean. It ceases to exist as an identifiable entity but does not actually cease to exist, since it is now part of the vastness of the sea. The latter view, that one sees things more clearly, depicts the human heart (which was the seat of the intellect in medieval Islamic thought) as a mirror that is normally dirty, tarnished by our everyday concerns and petty desires. Through engaging in mystical exercises we effectively polish the mirrors of our hearts and cleanse them to the point that they can accurately reflect the light of God.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Intuitionist logic to KabbalahIslamic Mysticism in Asia - History: Early Period, Doctrine And Practices, The Sufi Path, Impact On Literature And The Arts