Monday, November 03, 2014

The Essence of Sufism

John Baldock's Essence of Sufism (Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, 2004) is a primer on Sufi mysticism that includes historical context and discussions of Sufi texts and ideas under the general umbrella of Islam. Sufism is of interest to various seekers and poets, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. 

Rather than summarize, I'll roll out examples.

"All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop" ~ (page 77) ~ Kabir of India, circa 1140-1518.

At another point, the Persian Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur (or Farīd ud-Dīn Attar, circa 1145-1220 A.D.) describes a question and answer session with Rabi'ah al-Basri (of Basra, Iraq, circa 715-800 A.D.), one of many Sufi mystics who were (and are) women. 

Rabi'ah is asked over several lines (to adopt the Joyce Carol Oates title), where are you going, where have you been?

She states that she has come from and will go to "the other world."

'"Then what are you doing in this world?'

'I am making a game of it.'" (page 94). 

Pictured Here: the cover of a version of Farīd ud-Dīn Attar's The Conference of the Birds (1177 A.D.). I love the images and have often imagined a "Court of the Birds." Baldock notes that Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400 A.D.) wrote a somewhat comparable, if much shorter, poem sometimes named "The Parliament of Birds" and "The Parlement of Foules," circa 1382.

Later, Baldock gives us these lines: "[T]hey have become a mirror in which nothing is seen but the reflection of another . . . They are a mirror in which all we see is an image of ourselves" (page 110). 

Paraphrasing the Persian Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273 A.D.):

"If you are a traveller, it's best to take counsel with fellow travellers rather than stay-at-homes" (page 190).

This barely touches the surface of The Essence of Sufism, let alone the full range of the mystical Sufi worldview. But it's better than a stick in the eye, I hope! 

Later, perhaps, something about Fatima of Nishapur and Nunah Fatima bint ibn al-Muthanna, i.e. Fátima de Córdoba, among others ~ ranging from India to Persia to Iraq to North Africa to Spain ~ and more in between ~ and without ~ and within. 

Today's Rune: Fertility. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I should know more about these kinds of world views but I tend to read on the other side, the more concrete and scientific. too much to learn and not enough time.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Charles, cheers ~! They are not incompatible, science and mysticism. Consider the concept of ṣifr, or zero, for instance.

Anonymous said...

Erik-Birds of a feather should flock together?