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It has become quite a fashion with modern, oriental scholarship to trace the chain of influences. Such a procedure has certainly great historical value, provided it does not make us ignore the fundamental fact, that the human mind possesses an independent individuality, and, acting on its own initiative, can gradually evolve out of itself, truths which may have been anticipated by other minds ages ago. No idea can seize a people's soul unless, in some sense, it is the people's own. External influences may wake it up from its deep unconscious slumber; but they cannot - , so to speak, create it out of nothing. Much has been written about the origin of Persian Sufism; and, in almost all cases, explorers of this .most interesting field of research have exercised their ingenuity in discovering the various channels through which the basic ideas of Sufism might have travelled - from one place to another. They seem completely to have ignored the principle, that the full significance of a phenomenon in the intellectual evolution of a people can only be comprehended in the light of those pre-existing intellectual, political, and social conditions which alone make its existence inevitable. Von Kremer and Dozy derive Persian Sufism from the Indian Vedanta; Merx and Mr. Nicholson derive it from Neo-Platonism; while Professor Browne once regarded it as Aryan reaction against an unemotional Semitic religion. It appears to me, however, that these theories have been worked out under the influence of a notion of causation which is essentially false. That a fixed quantity A is the cause of, or produces another fixed quantity B, is a proposition which, though convenient for scientific purposes, is apt to damage all inquiry, in so far as it leads us completely to ignore the innumerable conditions lying at the back of a phenomenon. It would, for instance, be an historical, error to say that the dissolution of the Roman Empire was due to the barbarian invasions. The statement completely ignores other forces of a different character that tended to split up the political unity of the Empire. To describe the advent of barbarian invasions as the cause of the dissolution of the Roman Empire which could have assimilated, as it actually did to a certain extent, the so-called cause is a procedure that no logic would justify. Let us, therefore, in the light of a truer theory of causation, enumerate the principal political, social, and intellectual conditions of Islamic life about the end of the 8th and the first half of the 9th Century when, properly speaking, the Sufi ideal of life came into existence, to be soon followed by a philosophical justification of that ideal.
(1.) When we study the history of the time, we find it to be a time of more or less political unrest. The latter half of the 8th Century presents, besides the political revolution which resulted in the overthrow of the Umayyad (749 A.D.), persecutions of Zendiks, and revolts of Persian heretics (Sindbah 755-6; Ustadhis 766-8; the veiled prophet of Khurasan 777-80) who, working on the credulity of the people, cloaked, like Lamennais in our own times, political projects under the guise of religious ideas. Later on in the beginning of the 9th Century we find the sons of Harun (Ma'man and Amin) engaged in a terrible conflict for political supremacy; and still later, we see the Golden Age of Islamic literature seriously disturbed by the persistent revolt of the Mazdakite Babak (816-838). The early years of Ma'mun's reign present another social phenomenon of great political significance - the Shu'ubiyya controversy (815), which progresses with the rise and establishment of independent Persian families, the Tahirid (820), the Saffarid (868), and the Samanid Dynasty (874). It is, therefore, the combined force of these and other conditions of a similar nature that contributed to drive away spirits of devotional character from the scene of continual unrest to the blissful peace of an ever deepening...

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