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Interfaith Dialogue ( 4 Dec 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Quran’s Stand On Islamic Sufism And Christian Monasticism

True Sufis And Christian Mystics Are Rewarded By God For The Purity Of Their Purpose

Main Points:

1.    Quran asks Muslims not to criticize Sufis.

2.    Quran says that a section of Christian monastics were also on the right path.

3.    God judges His slaves only on the basis of their deeds.

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By New Age Islam Staff Writer

4 December 2021

 

Christian monasticism

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A major section of Muslim scholars are of the view that mysticism or Sufism is not approved by Islam as it practices seclusion and withdrawal from the society and encourages worship in solitude without contributing to the welfare of the society and helping the downtrodden and suppressed people of the  society.  They rightly say that the Quran envisages a well-knit society where every individual is morally and legally attached to the well-being of other individuals. Every individual has a moral and communal duty towards other individuals and is advised to serve the needy and the poor. Those who withdraw from the society only to worship God and to attain His closeness and pleasure are not the right kind of Muslims in the Quran.

However, in some other verses, the holy Quran also speaks in favour of those Muslims who remember the name of God morning and evening and spend their most part of the day and night in Allah’s remembrance and prayers. Their purpose is to attain spiritual attainment and God’s pleasure. They do not hanker after material wealth and luxuries of life and are content with what God has provided them. In other words, they also follow the verses that enjoin on Muslims to remain content with whatever they have got and not have caprice, lust, jealousy which are called the diseases of the heart in the Quran.

Therefore, the Quran asks Muslims not to speak ill and disturb these people as they do not ask for anything from the Muslims and are pleased in the remembrance of God:

˹O Prophet!˺ Do not dismiss those ˹poor believers˺ who invoke their Lord morning and evening, seeking His pleasure.1 You are not accountable for them whatsoever, nor are they accountable for you. So do not dismiss them, or you will be one of the wrongdoers.

 

Islamic Sufism

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But Islamic scholars like Javed Ahmadi Ghamidi seem to believe that the above quoted verse is not about sufis. He believes that Islam does not support sufis.He is of the view that Sufism is a parallel religion and not integral to Islam.

He says that Sufism is a parallel religion and not integral to Islam. He believes that Sufism is a deviation from the main Islamic teachings. Though he does not call sufis heretics or apostates and does not advocate their killing, he does not accept them as Muslims thereby opening the door for violent opposition.

 A section of Muslim scholars liken the sufis to the Christian ascetics (Rahab) and therefore condemn Sufism for leading a life of seclusion and alienation. They say that Sufism is also a kind of rahbaniyat invented by Christian mystics. But when we study the Quran and find what the Quran says about Rahbaniyat (Christian monasticism), we come across a verse that says that only those Christian ascetics who adopted monasticism to gain worldly benefits and political power and were slaves of lust were condemned by God. Those who became ascetics only to attain God’s pleasure and for attain spiritual purification were rewarded by God. The verse is as follows:

Then in the footsteps of these ˹prophets˺, We sent Our messengers, and ˹after them˺ We sent Jesus, son of Mary, and granted him the Gospel, and instilled compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers. As for monasticism, they made it up—We never ordained it for them—only seeking to please Allah, yet they did not ˹even˺ observe it strictly. So We rewarded those of them who were faithful. But most of them are rebellious. (Al Hadid: 27)

The verses says that though God did not ordain ascetic way of life for Christians, a life of total seclusion but some of them adopted such a life only to attain closeness to God and to attain God’s pleasure and did not hanker after worldly and material gains, they were rewarded because they were pure at heart and their monasticism was meant only for spiritual attainment. Those who used monasticism for obtaining material benefits and political power and were involved in sexual controversies under the garb of ascetism were condemned.

Monasticism originated with the best of intent and purpose. The first monks led a life of ascetism; they led a simple life, abstained from the luxuries of life, abstained from meat and wine and prayed in solitude to attain God’s pleasure. The first generation of monks emerged in the 3rd century AD. With the passage of time, this became a parallel instiution Christianity as Sufi became a parallel and popular institution in Islam.

It cannot be denied that both Sufism and Monasticism suffered some corrupt practices due to the entry of unscrupulous elements in the rank and file of sufis as has happened in all religions like Buddhism and Hiinduism but that does not reduce the importance and significance of Sufism and mysticism as a spiritual discipline. Particularly, sexual corruption marred the image of monasticism as both monks and nuns lived in monasteries together. In Islamic societies, so-called sufis associated with the kings and nawabs and became part of royal squabbles and controversies. Those of the sufis who were gifted with the art of poetry, wrote qasida (poetry praising kings and rich and powerful people).

Some sufis were therefore killed due to the jealousy and rivalry among sufis. They were declared heretics by rival sufis closed to the kings and killed so that they could be removed from their part.

 These two verses make the stand of the Quran clear on Sufism and Rahbaniyat. God judges His slaves not on the basis of what term is used for the practices of slaves but what intent and purpose the slave has while practicing a religious rite.  Sufism and Rahbaniyat are terms given to a group of pious people among the Muslims and Christians who spend their life in prayers and remembrance of God. God judges the acts of sufis and Rahabs (monks) not by the group or ideology they subscribe to but by what they really do and have in their hearts.

Apart from the corruption, lust for power of a section of zahiri (outward) sufis and monks, the institution of Sufism or monasticism is based on pure love of God and on non-violent ideology of Islam and Christianity. Sufis and monks are regarded with love and respect all over the world and therefore, the holy Quran also deals with the issue of mysticism both in Islam and Christian with much caution not rejecting it altogether but judging it by the purity of heart of the sufis and monks.

Islamic Sufism, Christian monasticism or Buddhist monasticism are different forms of spiritual discipline which the followers of different religions follow according to their religious upbringing and their understanding of the spiritual ways of attaining closeness or spiritual union with God.

All the paths lead to the same spiritual goal that is the pleasure of the Supreme Being. Only those who follow this path with the purity of heart are rewarded and those who use the spiritual discipline for material gains and political goals are condemned by God.

URL:    https://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/islamic-sufism-christian-monasticism/d/125898

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