Having considered in the previous post the stages of belief, Hazrat Inayat Khan now considers how Sufism might fit into various recognised forms of belief and thought.
Is Sufism Muslim? Is a Sufi a Muhammadan? In joining a Sufi community, is one associating with Muslims? Is a Sufi a follower of Islam? The word Islam means ‘peace’; this is the Arabic word. The Hebrew word is Salem (Jeru-salem). Peace and its attainment in all directions is the goal of the world.
But if the following of Islam is understood to mean the obligatory adherence to a certain rite, if being a Muslim means conforming to certain restrictions, how can the Sufi be placed in that category, seeing that the Sufi is beyond all limitations of this kind? So far from not accepting the Quran, the Sufi recognizes scriptures which others disregard, but the Sufi does not follow any special book. The shining ones, such as ‘Attar, Shams-i Tabriz, Rumi, Sadi, and Hafiz, have expressed their free thought with a complete liberty of language. To a Sufi, revelation is the inherent property of every soul. There is an unceasing flow of the divine stream, which has neither beginning nor end.
What is the position of Sufism with regard to Christianity? There is a place in the Sufi understanding for all the teachings contained in that faith, and there can be no antagonism in the mind of him who understands. The writings of the Christian mystics evidence the intensity of their pursuit and devotion to the Beloved – and there is only one Beloved. The devotion to the Sacred Heart will be found to be a link with the Sufi philosophy, which recognizes and practices it in the truest sense.
Is Sufism mysticism? As green is considered to be the color of Ireland, yet it cannot be said to belong exclusively to the Irish people, for anybody can wear green, and green is found all over the world, so mystics in Islam have been called Sufis. Sufism, divine wisdom, is for all, and is not limited to a certain people. It has existed from the first day of creation, and will continue to spread and to exist until the end of the world. Sufism is a mysticism of one wishes to be guided by it in the unfoldment of the soul, yet it is beyond mysticism.
Is Sufism theosophy? Sufis have no set belief or disbelief. Divine light is the only sustenance of their soul, and through this light they see their path clear, and what they see in this light they believe, and what they do not see they do not blindly believe. Yet they do not interfere with another person’s belief or disbelief, thinking that perhaps a greater portion of light has kindled his heart, and so he sees and believes that which the Sufi cannot see or believe. Or, perhaps a lesser portion of light has kept his sight dim and he cannot see and believe as the Sufi believes. Therefore Sufis leave belief and disbelief to the grade of evolution of every individual soul. The Murshid’s work is to kindle the fire of the heart, and to light the torch of the soul of his mureed, and to let the mureed believe and disbelieve as he chooses, while journeying through the path of evolution. But in the end all culminates in one belief, Huma man am, that is, ‘I am all that exists’; and all other beliefs are preparatory for this final conviction, which is called Haqq al-Iman in the Sufi terminology.
As soon as the word ‘theosophy’ is taken to mean certain fixed beliefs or disbeliefs, there is a difference from Sufism. Beliefs and disbeliefs are the cause of sects, each of these being blinded from the vision of the singleness of the whole of existence. As soon as thought is restricted, it ceases to be Sufism.
Is Sufism a school of thought? Wisdom is not restricted to one geographical spot such as a country, a city, a building or meeting place. Sufism cannot be correctly described as a school of thought, if by that is meant the instruction of a certain doctrine. It might be correct to speak of it as a school of thought in the sense that through Sufism one learns wisdom, just as in a school one learns wisdom of a certain kind. Sufism is beyond philosophy.
To be continued…