Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview

lected more of the reality of Islam than was available in the simple creed, the Shahada.

There are many ways of arguing for this thesis, but probably the simplest and most direct is to ask whether a dynasty or culture or religious school could ever meaningfully have called itself Muslim without ascribing to the Shahada. The answer is that none ever could have, any more than any group could ever meaningfully have called itself Christian without following Jesus or any group could ever meaningfully have called itself Jewish without embracing the Torah. We require certain elements if we are to say that a group or a proposition or a practice meets a given definition. Those elements then bulk large because they serve as our principal symbols for the heart of the matter denoted in the definition, the core of the reality described.

When it comes to keeping alive the heart of a religious matter, practice is a crucial factor. Those who practice the faith and morals of the religion year after year keep it vital. Certainly, they shape the definitional elements, giving them colors and smells peculiar to particular beaches and cul de sacs; but the definitional elements shape the practitioners even more, making Muslims of people who otherwise would be only Pakistanis of Lahore or Iraqis of Baghdad.

The Sufis were the great practitioners of Muslim spirituality. The preponderance of ardent efforts to realize the heart of the Muslim religious matter, to find the oneness of God, and to verify the beauty of the prophetship of Muhammad came from their ranks. Therefore, without denying the considerable diversity of the Sufi traditions, we submit that Sufism has provided Islam considerable unity. Shortly into their spiritual exercises, even Sufi novices, such as those of the Algerian sheik al-Alawi, realized that they were setting out for self-realization in God. They were not striving for wealth, power, or eminence in their local cultures. They were striving for something radically and universally human: self-realization, mystical fulfillment, in ultimate reality -- the one Lordship of God. It is hard to overestimate the impact of this orientation. It is hard to imagine what Islam would have been without it. The unity of the Koranic God has stamped Islam through and through. There is no god but God, and there is no Islam, common or mystical, without God as the sole center, the only Lord before whom to bow. 32


NOTES
1
Saadia Khawar Khan Chishti, "Female Spirituality in Islam", in Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr ( New York: Crossroad, 1987), 205.
2
Geoffrey Parrinder, A Dictionary of Non-Christian Religions ( Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971), 241.

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Mysticism: Holiness East and West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Hinduism 28
  • Notes 57
  • 3 - Buddhism 60
  • Notes 98
  • 4 - Chinese and Japanese Traditions 101
  • Notes 135
  • 5 - Jewish Traditions 137
  • Notes 183
  • 6 - Christian Traditions 186
  • Notes 225
  • 7 - Muslim Traditions 226
  • Notes 269
  • 8 - Mysticism Among Oral Peoples 272
  • Notes 291
  • 9 - Conclusion 293
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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