The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
STRIFE WITH GOD: THE FOOL1

The men of piety whom we became acquainted with in the previous chapters, in contrast to worldly people, perceive the gravity of their earthly and religious situation in its full urgency. They suffer from this world's transitoriness, from its torments and imperfections. They suffer as well from their own inadequacy or their inner rift. They are fearful of the hereafter and the final reckoning, and they await in terror what God will decide regarding their fate. They give expression to their grief-laden feelings in a more or less eloquent manner. Yet they still submit, piously and with patience, to whatever God ordains and imposes on them. None of them would be so presumptuous as to raise his voice accusingly against the creator of the world order, the author of their sufferings, the one who has determined their fate.


1

However, this boundary is occasionally crossed. Persons who have been driven insane by the world order, and such individuals as have suffered serious personal affliction, do allow themselves to be swept away into making bitter pronouncements about the Divinity and even lift their head toward the heavens to engage in strife with God Himself.

The earliest Muslim from whom a criticism of God's mercifulness has been handed down is the head of the sect of the Jahmiyya, Jahm ibn Ṣafwān (killed 128/745). The Ḥanbalite Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350) reports about him that he went outside with his companions and showed them the lepers and those afflicted with other torments, and said: "Behold! This is what the Most Merciful of the merciful does!" He, as well as his followers, denied God's mercifulness and wisdom. (Ighāthat allahfān 318).

1 Cf. H. Ritter, "Muslim Mystics' Strife with God" in: Oriens 5/1952/1–15.

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