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Copyright © William C. Chittick 2000
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part,
or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying and recording or otherwise,
without written permission of the publisher.
Published in Pakistan with the permission of the copyright owner
Printed at the Carvan Press, Darbar Market, Lahore for
Muhammad Aslam Suhail
Produced and distributed by
Suhail Academy, Chowk Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Pakistan First published in 2000
Contents
Part One
Part Two
A Note on Dates and Koranic References ix
Introduction xi
Islam in Three Dimensions 1
WORKS, FAITH, AND PERFECTION /
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE (6
IHSAN, IKHLAS, AND TAQWA 9
FELICITY 13
PRIORITIES 14
THE SCIENCES OF UNVElLIlNG AND PRACTICE 16
NOTES 21
Faith 25
STYLE AND CONTENT 25 THE THREE PRINCIPLES 27 THE COSMOLOGY OF TAWhfID 28
NOTES 32
The Rising Places of Faith
OPENING 36
35
Cataloguing in Publication Data: 1. William C. Chittick

2. Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth


Century Sufi Texts

3. Islam 4. Sufism-Early works to 1800


5. Monotheistic Faiths.
Pp. 320, Size, cm 22.5 x 14.5
ISBN 969-519-008-1
I. FAITH IN GOD 39
1. THE ESSENCE 39
2. THE ATTRIBUTES 41
3. THE ACTS 44
II. FAITH IN PROPHECY 47
1. THE WONDERS OF PROPHECY 47
2. THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD 49
In. FAITH IN THE LAST DAY 50
/. HUMAN SUBSISTENCE 50
2. THE BARZAKH AND THE OTHER STAGES
OF THE NEXT WOULD 51
CONCLUSION 54

Contents
Clarifications for Beginners
and Reminders for the Advanced 59
INTRODUCTION 59
I. THE CREATOR 63
1. THE ESSENCE 63
2. THE ATTRIBUTES 70
3. THE ACTS 74
II. FRIENDSHIP AND PROPHECY 81
1. FRIENDSHIP 81
SUPPLEMENT 85
2. PROPHECY 88
In. THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT WORLD 93
1. BENEFITS AND DANGERS OF THIS WORLD
2. THE NEXT WORLD AND ITS STAGES 97
CONCLUSION 104
93
Part Three Practice 111
NOTES 115
The Easy Roads of Sayf Al-DTn 117
INTRODUCTION: PERFECTING CHARACTER 1
A PRELIMINARY REMARK 118
I. THE SCIENCE OF FAITH 779
7. THE ESSENCE 120
2. THE ATTRIBUTES 122
3. THE ACTS 123
4. PROPHECY 125
5. THE NEXT WORLD 126
II. ABLUTIONS AND PURITY 727
1. THE EXCELLENCE OF PURITY 127
2. RELIEVING ONESELF 129
3. THE MINOR ABLUTION 130
AN ALLUSION 132
4. THE MAJOR ABLUTION 133
5. THE TAYAMMUM 133 IB. THE RITUAL PRAYER 134
1. ITS EXCELLENCE 134
2. THE NUMBER OF CYCLES 135
3. HOW TO PERFORM THE PRAYER 136
A HINT 138
4. THE INWARD DIMENSIONS 139
118
Contents v”
IV. FASTING 142
1. ITS EXCELLENCE 142
2. ITS SECRET AND ITS DEGREES 143
3. ITS OBLIGATIONS 144
V. REMEMBRANCE AND SUPPLICATION 146
1. IMPARTING REMEMBRANCE 146
2. TRANSMITTED SUPPLICATIONS 148
3. SUPPLICATIONS FOR EVERY SITUATION 157 CONCLUSION: THE JOURNEY 767
Part Four Sufism and Islam 165
ORTHODOX ISLAM 765
MYSTICISM AND DISCIPLINE 768
TOWARD A NARROWER DEFINITION OF SUFISM 773
NOTES 778
Annotations 181
THE RISING PLACES OF FAITH 787 CLARIFICATIONS FOR BEGINNERS 207 THE EASY ROADS OF SAYF AL-DIN 234
Appendixes 255
1. THE AUTHOR 255
2. CORRECTIONS TO THE PRINTED TEXTS 263 Bibliography 2 71
Index of Koranic Verses 281 Index of Hadiths and Sayings 291 Index of Names and Terms 297
1
ra.

A Note on Dates and Koranic References
All dates are indicated according to both the Islamic hijrah calendar (A.H.) and the Common Era, with the two dates separated by a slash. Citations from the Koran are italicized, with the number of sura and verse indicated in parentheses or brackets.

Introduction
Most premodern Islamic texts are very long or highly specialized. It is easy to find heavy tomes on Koran commentary, Hadith, jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, and Sufism, or short works on the fine points of these sciences. But concise overviews of the essentials of Islamic faith and practice ane rare. In what follows, I translate three Persian texts written from a Sufi perspective about the year 650/1252. They present their author’s understanding of basic Islamic teachings succinctly, clearly, and simply. They may have been written by $adr al-DIn Qunawl (d. 673/1274), the step-son of the ”greatest master” (al-shaykh al-akbar), Ibn al-’Arabl (d. 638/1240), and a good friend of the: foremost Sufi poet, Jalal al-DIn RumI (d. 672/1273). It is more likely that they were composed by one Naslr (or Nasir) al-DIn Qunawl. The texts were almost certainly written in Konya or its environs at about the time when RumI and Qunawl -were beginning their careers. Whoever may be the author, he presents the teachings of Ibn al-’Arabl and his school in a simplified and straightforward manner. Thus, these are perhaps the earliest examples of a genre that has continued to ”be written until modern times.1
I was originally attracted to these three treatises because of research on Qunawl, but my interest in them did not diminish when I realized that he is probably not the author. The treatises provide a perspective on Islam that is rarely met in modern works and that may also help provide a corrective to the simplistic classifying that goes on in the secondary literature. Their content will be valuable to anyone interested in the history of Sufism and its place in the Islamic tradition.
The first treatise, The Rising Places of Faith, deals primarily with explaining the objects of faith, which are presented in terms of Islam’s ”three principles”: tawhid (the assertion of God’s unity), prophecy (nubuwwa), and eschatology (ma’ad).
The second treatise, Clarifications for Beginners and Reminders for the Advanced, presents the same three principles in considerably more detail.
The third treatise, The Easy Roads of Sayfal-Din, is addressed to a person who knew little about the religion-Sayf al-DIn Tughril, a government official apparently employed at one of the Seljuk courts of Anatolia. His name suggests that he was a Turk. He seems to have recently converted to Islam or, if he was a born Muslim, he had decided to take his religion seriously. The author sets out to tell Sayf al-DIn about Islam’s essential teachings. Hence, he divides the
XI

Introduction
work into two main sections: what Sayf al-Dln needs to understand about God and the world, and what he needs to do. The first section provides a bare outline of the three principles, while the second goes into some detail on the practices that every Muslim must perform. This text is especially interesting in that it suggests what might be called the ”lowest common denominator” of Sufi practice in the thirteenth century, and at other times as well.
The three treatises share a warmth and joy that are typical for Sufi works but, as a rule, are absent from books on sciences such as jurisprudence, Kalam, Koran commentary, and philosophy. The author quotes poetry constantly and makes no attempt to enter the nit-picking discussions and debates, the interminable in qultas (”If you say. . .then I will say”) of the specialized treatises. Like Ghazall in fhya’ ’ulum al-din and KImiya-yi sa’adat, he strives to bring out the spiritual essence of the religious teachings, but unlike GhazalT, he avoids detailed proofs and arguments, maintaining a light touch throughout. The first two texts and parts of the third are written with a beauty and fluency that make them comparable with classics of Persian prose such as Ahmad Ghazali’s Sawanih, Fakhr al-Dln ’Iraqi’s Lama’at, or Suhrawardi’s visionary treatises. In contrast to these authors, however, the author structures his works clearly and logicdly in a way that is reminiscent of technical texts in philosophy or theology.
The author says that his aim in composing these treatises was to ’ ’call attention and incite desire.” He definitely did not write them for the general run of Muslims who, like the general run of people anywhere, consider religion-if they take it seriously at all-as a transaction: If you follow the rules, you avoid punishment and receive a reward. The, author speaks to_thosfi^w_ja:r4O-have-4;eased-being .satisfied with the constraints-of temporal existence aiulyearnjbr theJnfinitet One is reminded of Rumi’s line.
What is Love? Perfect thirst. So let me explain the water of life.2
The significance of the works lies on several levels. From the point of view of the history of religious ideas, they provide insight into the thinking of a century that is a watershed in Islamic history. They offer a rare bird’s-eye view of Islam in an era when detailed and rambling expositions were the rule. Thus, for example, while much is known about the author’s contemporaries, Ibn al-’Arab! and Rumi, they never wrote introductory works of this sort, so their basic views on faith and practice can hardly be expressed in a few words without entering into the domain of speculation.
The texts can help dispel a myth that is still prevalent in religious studies in general and Islamic studies in particular. This is the idea that Sufis had little concern for the Shariah (Islamic law), or that they considered it to be a preliminary stage of human development-that is, a stage that one can pass beyond. In other words, it is thought that Sufis were free of the constraints of Islamic ”orthodoxy.” It is not surprising that Sufi texts are sometimes read in this manner, since many
Introduction
Sufis set up their teachings in contradistinction to those of the jurists (juqaha’) or the dogmatic theologians (the specialists in Kalam). Hence, they are critical of the juridical and theological perspectives, and it is easy to assume that they themselves wanted to have nothing to do with these ”exoteric” sciences. But the issue was rather one of establishing the right sort of priorities. Sufis did not deny the legitimacy of these sciences, merely the exaggerated claims for authority made by many of their practitioners.
A second important source for the myth of Sufism’s unconcern for the Shariah is the wishful thinking of Westerners who see Sufism as congenial but Islam as oppressive, or who find Islam’s spiritual teachings exciting but its attention to ritual details tiring. In fact, Islam has taken both these dimensions of religion seriously from the beginning, and the peculiar genius of Sufism has to do with finding a happy balance between works and spirituality.
The translated texts have a direct bearing on a question that is of concern to everyone interested in the history of Islam: what exactly is Sufism, and how does it relate to Islam as a whole? Studies of Sufism usually make no serious attempt to answer this question-and with good reason. It would be practically Impossible to provide an answer that would satisfy all who are concerned. Most scholars draw a sharp line between mainstream Islam and Sufism. This is rather easy to do when one is dealing with figures such as al-Hallaj, Ibn al-’Arabl, and Rumi. But the teachings of such masters do not necessarily focus on what Sufism actually meant for the vast majority of the members of Sufi orders, or for the vast majority of Muslims. The three texts translated here illustrate why it is often impossible to distinguish between Islam and Sufism, or between ”exoteric” and ”esoteric” Islam. They may help show that such labels can never be) anything more than pointers and that the actual situation is always infinitely more complex than scholarly theories suggest.3
The three works will be useful to those who are curious about Islam as a living religion, not as a by-gone historical phenomenon to be classified with other dead artifacts. As a general rule, modern scholars pay a disproportionately large amount of attention to the Shariah and Islam’s social and political teachings, and not nearly enough to the internal logic of the Islamic world view. Analysis of external phenomena provides no insight into the religion’s driving power. It does not help us understand why Islamic teachings are convincing for Muslims. The general tendency is to attribute Islam’s hold on people to social and economic factors, if not to fanaticism and ”fundamentalism.” Only ignorance of the internal coherence of Islamic theology, cosmology, and anthropology could lead to this son of conclusion. However, there are relatively few works in English that demonstrate this coherence-largely because most Western scholars have had other interests and priorities, while most Muslim authors have had only tenuous connections with their own intellectual traditions. These works have much to offer here, not because of their provenance, but because they make sense.

Introduction
Finally, the works will be of interest to those concerned with the general field of spirituality in world religions. They speak to everyone interested in the deeper questions posed by religion in all its forms, in spite of what may be unfamiliar modes of expression. The language is Islamic, but the style and approach of the treatises-especially the first and second-have a universal appeal. The linguistic and cultural veils can easily be lifted by the wind of personal interest.
I have intended to publish translations of these texts for several years. I first became familiar with one of them more than twenty years ago when I was working on my doctoral dissertation. By 1978,1 had edited and translated two of the texts and was preparing them for publication in Iran, but the revolution brought an end to those plans. At that time, I had only a single manuscript of the third treatise, Easy Roads, and did not feel that it was sufficient for an edition or translation.
Once back in America, I continued working on a book that included translations of two of the treatises, but I had to put it aside as other projects arose.4 However, the more I taught introductory courses on Islam and Sufism, the more I realized that the texts would be useful for beginning students. In 1990,1 learned that Easy Roads had been published, and I was able to obtain a copy. I translated that and revised the two earlier translations thoroughly, mainly with a view toward style. Although it is impossible to reproduce the delightful flow of the originals in English, I have tried my best to do so.
Pan One serves as an introduction to the texts, suggesting the role of faith and practice in Islam and the way in which Sufism fits into Islamic religiosity.
Pan Two contains the two texts on faith, and Pan Three the text on practice. I have written introductions to both pans, but the translations can practically stand ’ on their own. Because they were written for beginners and not for specialists, they are remarkably straightforward and clear. I have provided annotations in order to help situate the teachings within the context of Islamic lore and,’ where possible, to provide sources for the quotations.
Part Four continues the discussion begun in Part One on the role of Sufism in Islam. If Part One deals with issues that need to be grasped before the texts can be situated within the broad context of Islamic teachings, then Part Four suggests some of the implications of these texts for Islamic studies as a subdiscipline of religious studies.
In the first appendix, I have discussed all the evidence that I have been able to find concerning the author of the works.
I have followed the published editions in the translations, making corrections to the Persian texts where necessary. These corrections are listed in the second appendix.5
I am grateful to David Buchman, who volunteered to type the original version of the book into a word processor, thus making it possible, in this era of technological dependence, for me to carry out extensive revisions.
Introduction
NOTES
1. On the importance of this school in Islamic thought, see Chittick, ”Ibn ’Arab! and His School.” I am not implying here that RumI was a follower of Ibn al-’Arabl. Cf. Chittick, ”RumI and Wahdat al-Wujud.”
2. RumI, Dfwan 17361 (quoted in Chittick, Sufi Path of Love 195).
3. I have suggested one way to deal with this extremely complex issue of the relationship among different varieties of Islam in my article, ”Spectrums of Islamic Thought.” See the fine study by Mark Woodward, Islam in Java, which suggests that even in contemporary Islam, the clear demarcations that people want to find between, for example, ”Sufism” and ”Orthodoxy,” are completely misleading.
4. I mention this work since I referred to it in some of the footnotes of ’Iraqi, Fakhruddin ’Iraqi: Divine Flashes, and a number of people have asked me over the years when it was coming out. The present book includes the two texts I promised, but not the glossary. Important terms that were included in the glossary of that work are explained in the annotations of this book, and, in any case, far more information is available today on many of the technical terms because of more recent publications, including my own Sufi Path of Knowledge.
5. Qunawl (ascribed), Matati’-i Jman, edited by W.C. Chittick, Sophia Perennis4/l (1978) 57-80; idem, Tabsirat al-mubtadf, edited by Najaf allHabibl, Ma’arif 1 (1364/1985) 69-128; Juwaynl (ascribed), Manahij-i sayfi, edited by Najib Ma’il Hirawl, Tehran: Mawla, 1363/1984.

Part One Islam in Three Dimensions
As stated in the introduction, two of the three texts translated in this book focus on the contents of Islamic faith, while the third concentrates on the details of practice-that is, the works that Muslims should perform in order to observe the Shariah. Faith is an issue frequently discussed by the proponents of Kalam (dogmatic theology), while the details of practice are the specialty of the jurists. But these are ”Sufi” texts, which is to say that they are written from a viewpoint that is neither theological nor juridical. Specialists in Islamic studies are well aware that Islamic thought has different perspectives, but others may be confused by the distinctions. It may be useful here to suggest the nature of these distinctions in order to clarify the role played in Islam by Sufi writings.
WORKS, FAITH, AND PERFECTION
When we talk about ”Islam” today, our understanding of the term is shaped by a host of historical and social factors. Not the least of these is the way in which journalists, politicians, and television announcers understand the term. Contemporary opinions and ideologies-themselves based on presuppositions that are far from self-evident-instill in us certain views about what has significance in human life. Given our own assumptions about reality, it is not easy to grasp how Muslim authors of the thirteenth century looked upon their religion. But the translated texts will make it obvious that our author has a very different idea of Islam than that which is met with today, not only in the’media but also in the works of specialists.
By twentieth-century lights, we expect an introductory study of Islam to give us information about such things as historical background, events surrounding the foundation of the religion, important personalities, the political and social implications of the establishment of the new community, the significance and role of the important constitutive elements of the religious self-consciousness-such as the Koran, Hadith, common law, local customs, and the heritage from previous civilizations-and the historical development of various sects and belief systems. But none of this is discussed in the present treatises, even though the author is clearly concerned with explaining the nature of the Islamic religion.

Parr One
Islam in Tliree Dimensions
In order to grasp the significance of these texts in their own context, we need a definition of Islam that would make sense to our author and that can also be understood in modern terms. This demands looking beyond many contemporary ideas of what is significant in human history in order to investigate the presuppositions of Muslim thinkers concerning the nature of religion and howit relates with human beings. My goal in Part One of this book is thus to bring out the perspective of our author and others like him on the religion that they follow..What does ”Islam” mean, and what does ”Sufism” have to do with Islam?
It is self-evident, even in modern terms, that human affairs have different foci. Some are centered in bodily activity, some in the life of the mind, and some in the heart. One possible means of classifying these domains is to speak of three basic dimensions of human existence, such as acting, knowing, and willing, or activity, intellectuality, and spirituality. Such a tripartite division is commonly met in Islamic texts. One of its earliest formulations is found in a famous hadith (a saying of the Prophet)”called the ”Hadith of Gabriel,” in which the Prophet divides ”the religion”1-that is, Islam-into three basic dimensions that I will call works, faith, and perfection.2
In naming these three dimensions, the Prophet employed words that have played important roles in Islamic intellectual history: islam (submission), fman (faith), and ihsan (virtue). In order to understand the religion of Islam as a reality possessing these three dimensions, one must grasp some of the implications of these words in the Koran, the Hadith, and the tradition.
Already, in the Koran, the word islam or ”submission” has at least four senses, all of which have to do with the relationship between God and His creatures! In the broadest sense, islam is used to indicate that every creature, by the fact of being God’s handiwork, is controlled by Him. To Him ”submits” everything in the heavens and the earth (3:83).
..- In a narrower sense, islam means voluntary submission to God’s will by following His revealed messages. The Koran mentions among the ”Muslims”- that is, those who have freely submitted to God-Abraham (2:131, 3:67), Joseph (12:101), Noah (10:72), Lot and his family (51:36), the apostles of Jesus (5:111), and other pre-Islamic figures. Even Pharoah claims to be a Muslim when he realizes that he is going to be drowned (10:90), and a Sufi such as Ibn al-’Arabi could stir up a controversy by suggesting that Pharoah’s Islam was sufficient for salvation.
In a third and still narrower meaning, islam designates the religion revealed to Muhammad through the Koran. The most obvious Koranic example of this usage is the verse revealed at the Prophet’s farewell pilgrimage. Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for you as a religion (5:3). It is this meaning of the term which I want to clarify here and for which I will be employing the term ”Islam” without italics.
(^ In the founh and narrowest sense, islam refers to the outward works of the religion as distinguished from an inner something that makes the religion genuine and sincere. One verse is especially significant, since it differentiates between islam and fman, submission and faith. The Bedouins say, ”We have faith. ” Say [O Muhammad!]: ”You do not have faith; rather, say, ’We have submitted; ’for faith has not vet entered your hearts” (49:14). In this fourth sense, islam corresponds to one of the three dimensions of Islam, and hence its meaning needs to be clarified if we are to understand the meaning of islam in the third sense. The Hadith of Gabriel differentiates even more clearly than this Koranic verse between islam in this fourth sense and iman. (It is true that some Koranic verses and hadiths use the two’terms as synonyms, but this does not prevent the texts from drawing distinctions in other contexts.) According to this hadith, islam consistsof the ”Five Pillars”: saying the double Shahadah or testimony (bearing witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His messenger), performing the ritual prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, paying the alms-tax, and making the hajj if one has the means to do so.
Once the Islamic community moves beyond the earliest period and becomes differentiated into a variety of schools and approaches, islam in the fourth sense refers to the domain in which the science of jurisprudence exercises its authority. The jurists are those of the ulama who are experts in the five pillars and the other activities prescribed by the Shariah. If people want to know how to make an ablution or draw up a will or a marriage contract, they ask a jurist.
A jurist as jurist can have nothing to say about faith or perfection, since these belong to other dimensions of the religion. As GhazalT puts it, ”The jurist speaks about what is correct and corrupt in islam and about its preconditions, but in this he pays no attention to anything but the tongue. As for the heart, that is outside the jurist’s authority [\vilayai al-faqih}.”3 If the jurist also happens to be a theologian, then, as theologian, he can speak about faith, since faith is one of theology’s concerns. One might object that the Shahadah-the gist of Islam’s theology-is one of the five pillars and is therefore part of the first dimension. However, this is Shahadah as work, not as theory. Islam in the sense of submitting to the five pillars demands simply that a Muslim voice, the Shahadah in order to bear witness to submission. Whether or not a person believes in or understands the Shahadah-and more importantly, how a person understands the Shahadah-are different issues, dealt with in theology and other parallel sciences, not in jurisprudence.
The second dimension of Islam is Iman (faith). The Koran frequently employs the term and various derived words, especially the plural of the active participle, mu’minun (those who have faith, the faithful). Although translators normally render fman as ”faith” or ”belief,” such translations leave out an important connotation, because the word derives from a root that means to be secure, safe, and tranquil. Hence, the literal^sense of //nfl^js_jo_j.einder_secure, safe, calm. and free from fear. The implication is that, through faith iiLGfld. gne_becornes

Pan One
securejTQrn erjrox_and rooted in the truth. Faith has a cognitive dimension that is a step in the direction of certainty.
In a number of verses the Koran provides a list of the objects of faith. For example, True piety is Ms: To have faith in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets (2:177). In the Hadith of Gabriel, the Prophet gives a formulaic expression to these objects by defining faith as ”having faith in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Last Day, and the measuring out [qadar] of good and evil.”4 Notice that the Prophet repeats the word faith in the definition itself, which indicates that here-in contrast to certain other hadithsthe meaning of faith is not at issue, but rather the objects of faith. These objects later become systematized into the three principles of the religion already mentioned in the introduction of this book-tawhid (the assertion of God’s unity), Prophecy (nubuwwa), and the Return to God, (ma’ad, commonly translated as ”eschatology”). All the objects mentioned in thehadith are studied in the Islamic sciences. Muslim scholars did not approach them as articles of belief, in the modern sense of this term. They did not suppose that these objects may or may not be true and real. On the contrary, they accepted them as objective realities to be found in the nature of things.
If the first dimension of Islam becomes the specialty of the jurists, the second dimension becomes the object of study of three main groups of scholars-the proponents of Kalam, Sufis who were concerned with theoretical issues such as theology and cosmology, and philosophers. These three broad schools of thought-each having several branches-can be distinguished in many ways. Elsewhere, I have suggested that one way in which to understand their differing approaches is to notice the stress that they place upon various forms of knowledge.5 By and large, philosophers claim that reason (’aql) is a sufficient means to understand the nature of things. No prophetic intervention is necessary-at least not for philosophers. The proponents of Kalam stress the primacy of revelation, although they interpret it in rational terms and hence, on the question of reason’s role, can be placed rather close to the philosophers. In contrast to both philosophers and Kalam authorities, the Sufis maintain that reason has clearly defined limits. They agree with the Kalam specialists that revelation has a primary role to play, but they hold that interpretation of the revealed texts by the sole means of reason prevents a full understanding. Reason must be supplemented by direct knowledge given by God. This knowledge is called by many names, including ”unveiling” (kashf), ”tasting” (dhawq), ”witnessing” (shuhud), and ”insight” (basird).
In the dimension of faith, divergence of opinion is much more pronounced than in the first dimension, and naturally so. The jurists are concerned with outward works, which can be seen with the eye and analyzed in concrete detail. But the specialists in faith are concerned mainly with invisible realities that require the full application of human intelligence, if not direct divine aid, in order to be grasped to any extent. Differences of opinion abound, even though there is a surprising unanimity on certain fundamental issues.
Islam in Three Dimensions
The third dimension of Islam is perfection or virtue. The Prophet employed the word ihsan, which is the most difficult of the three terms to translate. It is an active form from the root h.s.n., which means beautiful and good. Hence, the word ihsan means to accomplish what is beautiful and good, to do something well, to do something perfectly, to gain perfect and virtuous qualities. The standard by which the good, the beautiful, and the virtuous are judged cannot be an individual’s opinion, because at issue here is what the religion teaches. In the Hadith of Gabriel, the Prophet defines ihsan as ”serving [or worshiping] God as if you see Him, because if you do not see Him, He nonetheless sees you.” In other words, this third dimension of Islam is concerned with depth, or the inner attitudes that accompany activity and thought. One must be aware of God’s presence in everything one does-which is to say that one must have a state of soul in conformity with works and faith.
If people fail to deepen the first two dimensions of the religion, they are left with meaningless activity and verbal definitions. But everyone knows that the worth of activity is intimately bound up with the intention that animates it, while verbal definitions are useless without understanding. All those who take religion seriously must ask how to go below the surface and enter into the depths. Naturally, there are degrees. Most Muslim thinkers hold that human beings will ultimately be differentiated in accordance with the extent to which they live up to the standard of perfection in works and faith.6 This is one of the meanings of the traditional teaching that both paradise and hell embrace many levels.
Just as the first two dimensions of Islam have their specialists, so also the third dimension has scholars and sages who dedicate their lives to explicating its nature. Most of these have been called ”Sufis,” although many of the ulama known as philosophers or theologians also investigated this dimension of the religion. And just as the dimension of faith leads to more debate and disagreement than does the dimension of works, so also, for analogous reasons, the dimension of perfection is more controversial than that of faith.
In short, Islam, as defined by the Prophet in the Hadith of Gabriel, consists of works, faith, and perfection. One can classify many of the scholarly disciplines that become established in Islam on the basis of the respective emphasis placed on one or more of these dimensions. What is of immediate relevance here is that the translated treatises focus on all three dimensions, even though the author does not refer to this hadith, nor does he clearly separate the dimension of perfection from the other two. However, there is no need to make a clear differentiation. This tripartite division serves simply to provide an overview, not a hard and fast rule. Moreover, when Islam’s dimensions are embodied in the actuality of being human, they become different aspects of a single whole. The more harmoniously the three dimensions are integrated, the closer the person approaches to a perfected human personality and to the nature of the Real itself, which is utter harmony and pure oneness.

6 Part One


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