Sunday, January 3, 2016

Philosophy of Sufism and Islam

In the course of human history, man is struck by a strange phenomenon. The living beings are born, they grow for some time and then they died. Death is perhaps the strongest, and still the common most phenomenon man has to come across. He has also tried to explain the phenomenon in his own way. One such explanation is that although the living beings (particularly human being) looks as one it (or he) consists of two elements, the material body and the other consisting what we may call the spirit, soul, self, or mind. What we call death is the separation of these two. Both these elements exist (forever) in their own right. This is at the back of Cartesian or Mimanmsa dualism. But unless they come together they do not shape what we call an individual. All religions and philosophies took initiatives to characterize this individualism. Here we will discuss the standpoint of Sufism. It is a sect of Islam but prominent in religious sects. From the philosophical standpoint the sufi sect leans towards the mystic tradition. According to Gazzzali , the term sufi implies a man’s remaining at peace with the world, in mediation upon God. In some ways the Sufi conception of the passing away (fana) of individual self in Universal Being is almost Upanishadic. But fana is not the same as nirvana, though both terms imply the passing away of individuality. There are seven stages to the ultimate goal: repentance, abstinence, renunciation, poverty, patience, trust in God and finally satisfaction. Three independent streams of thoughts fed the river of Sufism and determined its content and character: First, Islam brought with it some of the asceticism of the desert, and aversion to the life of urban and settled luxury. Second, Pythagorean Hellenism and Alexandrian Gnosticism, which had permanently Judaism and Christianity, had dominated the Near East for a thousand years before the advent of Islam. When the masses of the Near East and North Africa converted to Islam, it was natural that Gnostic ideas and metaphors were brought in with their spiritual baggage. Third, being the dominant religion of most of the provinces of Asia acquired by Islam, Buddhism was soon to exercise its influence. Henceforth, the three streams were one and ran like a mighty river. Sufism originated from Islam but it also gets effects from Platonism, Christianity, Mystic tenancies of Hinduism and Buddhism.  That’s why sometimes we find Sufism different from Islam but it never go far away from Islam. We can say that the Sufis are example of pure spiritual discipline which require a sense of dedication and humanity to get the ultimate goal of life i.e. self-realisation. So the major objective of this paper is to disuses the major components of Sufism and sees its relation with Islam in harmonious way.

To be presented at 90th Session of Indian Philosophical Congress to be held at Bodh-Gaya on 1-4 February, 2016.