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Amidst all the variety of creeds and worshippers the gnostic sees but one real object of worship.

"Those who adore God in the sun" (says Ibn al-‘Arabi) "behold the sun, and those who adore Him in living things see a living thing, and those who adore Him in lifeless things see a lifeless thing, and those who adore Him as a Being unique and unparalleled see that which has no like. Do not attach yourself" (he continues) "to any particular creed exclusively, so that you disbelieve in all the rest; otherwise, you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognise the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed, for He says (Kor. 2.109), 'Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah.' Every one praises what he believes; his god is his own creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently he blames the beliefs of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance. If he knew Junayd's saying, 'The water takes its colour from the vessel containing it,' he would not interfere with other men's beliefs, but would perceive God in every form of belief."

And Hafiz sings, more in the spirit of the freethinker, perhaps, than of the mystic:

"Love is where the g1ory falls
Of Thy face--on convent walls
Or on tavern floors, the same
Unextinguishable flame.

Where the turbaned anchorite
Chanteth Allah day and night,
Church bells ring the call to prayer
And the Cross of Christ is there."

Sufism may join hands with freethought--it has often done so--but hardly ever with sectarianism. This explains why the vast majority of Sufis have been, at least nominally, attached to the catholic body of the Moslem community. ‘Abdallah Ansari declared that of two thousand Sufi Sheykhs with whom he was acquainted only two were Shi‘ites. A certain man who was a descendant of the Caliph ‘Ali, and a fanatical Shi‘ite, tells the following story:

"For five years," he said, "my father sent me daily to a spiritual director. I learned one useful lesson from him: he told me that I should never know anything at all about Sufism until I got completely rid of the pride which I felt on account of my lineage."

Superficial observers have described Babism as an offshoot of Sufism, but the dogmatism of the one is naturally opposed to the broad eclecticism of the other. In proportion as the Sufi gains more knowledge of God, his religious prejudices are diminished. Sheykh ‘Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Sabbagh, who at first disliked living in Upper Egypt, with its large Jewish and Christian population, said in his old age that he would as readily embrace a Jew or Christian as one of his own faith.

While the innumerable forms of creed and ritual may be regarded as having a certain relative value in so far as the inward feeling which inspires them is ever one and the same, from another aspect they seem to be veils of the Truth, barriers which the zealous Unitarian must strive to abolish and destroy.

"This world and that world are the egg, and the bird within it
Is in darkness and broken-winged and scorned and despised.
Regard unbelief and faith as the white and the yolk in this egg,
Between them, joining and dividing, a barrier which they shall not pass.
When He hath graciously fostered the egg under His wing,
Infidelity and religion disappear: the bird of Unity spreads its pinions."

The great Persian mystic, Abu Sa‘id ibn Abi ’l-Khayr, speaking in the name of the Calendars or wandering dervishes, expresses their iconoclastic principles with astonishing boldness:

"Not until every mosque beneath the sun
Lies ruined, will our holy work be done;
And never will true Musalman appear
Till faith and infidelity are one."

Such open declarations of war against the Mohammedan religion are exceptional. Notwithstanding the breadth and depth of the gulf between full-blown Sufism and orthodox Islam, many, if not most, Sufis have paid homage to the Prophet and have observed the outward forms of devotion which are incumbent on all Moslems. They have invested these rites and ceremonies with a new meaning; they have allegorised them, but they have not abandoned them. Take the pilgrimage, for example. In the eyes of the genuine Sufi it is null and void unless each of the successive religious acts which it involves is accompanied by corresponding 'movements of the heart.'

A man who had just returned from the pilgrimage came to Junayd. Junayd said:

"From the hour when you first journeyed from your home have you also been journeying away from all sins?" He said "No." "Then," said Junayd, "you have made no journey. At every stage where you halted for the night did you traverse a station on the way to God?" " No," he replied.

"Then," said Junayd, "you have not trodden the road, stage by stage. When you put on the pilgrim's garb at the proper place, did you discard the qualities of human nature as you cast off your clothes?" "No." "Then you have not put on the pilgrim's garb. When you stood at ‘Arafat, did you stand one moment in contemplation of God?" "No." "Then you have not stood at ‘Arafat. When you went to Muzdalifa and achieved your desire, did you renounce all sensual desires?" "No." "Then you have not gone to Muzdalifa. When you circumambulated the Ka‘ba, did you behold the immaterial beauty of God in the abode of purification?" "No." "Then you have not circumambulated the Ka‘ba. When you ran between Safa and Marwa, did you attain to purity (safa) and virtue (muruwwat)?" "No." "Then you have not run. When you came to Mina, did all your wishes (muna) cease?" "No." "Then you have not yet visited Mina. When you reached the slaughter-place and offered sacrifice, did you sacrifice the objects of worldly desire?" "No." "Then you have not sacrificed. When you threw the pebbles, did you throw away whatever sensual thoughts were accompanying you?" "No." "Then you have not yet thrown the pebbles, and you have not yet performed the pilgrimage."

This anecdote contrasts the outer religious law of theology with the inner spiritual truth of mysticism, and shows that they should not be divorced from each other.

"The Law without the Truth," says Hujwiri, "is ostentation, and the Truth without the Law is hypocrisy. Their mutual relation may be compared to that of body and spirit: when the spirit departs from the body, the living body becomes a corpse, and the spirit vanishes like wind. The Moslem profession of faith includes both: the words, 'There is no god but Allah,' are the Truth, and the words, 'Mohammed is the apostle of Allah,' are the Law; any one who denies the Truth is an infidel, and any one who rejects the Law is a heretic."

Middle ways, though proverbially safe, are difficult to walk in; and only by a tour de force can the Koran be brought into line with the esoteric doctrine which the Sufis derive from it. Undoubtedly they have done a great work for Islam. They have deepened and enriched the lives of millions by ruthlessly stripping off the husk of religion and insisting that its kernel must be sought, not in any formal act, but in cultivation of spiritual feelings and in purification of the inward man. This was a legitimate and most fruitful development of the Prophet's teaching. But the Prophet was a strict monotheist, while the Sufis, whatever they may pretend or imagine, are theosophists, pantheists, or monists. When they speak and write as believers in the dogmas of positive religion, they use language which cannot be reconciled with such a theory of unity as we are now examining. ‘Afifuddin al-Tilimsani, from whose commentary on Niffari I have given some extracts in this chapter, said roundly that the whole Koran is polytheism a perfectly just statement from the monistic point of view, though few Sufis have dared to be so explicit.

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