SûfIsm, or sOofism

Sûfism, or Soofism (Arabic, suf, pure, wise), a certain mystic system of philosophical theology within Islam. Its tenets are, that nothing exists absolutely but God; that the human soul is an emanation from his essence; that every man is an incarnation of Deity; and, though divided for a time from this heavenly source, will be finally reunited with him; that the highest possible happiness will arise from that reunion; and that the chief good of mankind consists in as perfect a union with the Eternal Spirit as the encumbrances of a mortal frame will allow; that, for this purpose, they should break all connection with extrinsic objects, and pass through life without attachments, as a swimmer in the ocean strikes freely without the impediments of clothes; that if mere earthly charms have power to influence the soul, the idea of celestial beauty must overwhelm it in ecstatic light. It maintains also that, for want of apt words to express the divine perfection and the ardor of our devotion, we must borrow such expressions as approach the nearest to our ideas, and speak of beauty and love in a transcendent and mystical sense; that, like a reed torn from its native bank-like wax separated from its delicious honey — the soul of man bewails its disunion with melancholy music, and sheds burning tears; like the lighted taper, waiting passionately for the moment of its extinction, as a disengagement from earthly trammels, and the means of returning to its only beloved. Sufism teaches four principal degrees of human perfection or sanctity.

1. Shariat, or the lowest, is the degree of strict obedience to all the ritual laws of Mohammedanism, such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, ablutions, etc. — and the ethical precepts of honesty, love of truth, and the like.

2. Tarikat. This degree is attainable by those who, while strictly adhering to the outward or ceremonial injunctions of religion, rise to an inward perception of the mental power and virtue necessary for the nearer approach to the Divinity, the necessity of and the yearning for which they feel.

3. Hakikal (truth) is the degree of those who, by continuous contemplation and inner devotion, have risen to the true perception of the nature of the visible and invisible-who, in fact, have recognized the Godhead, and through this knowledge of it have succeeded in establishing an ecstatic relation to it.

4. Maarifal is the degree in which man communicates directly with the Deity, and is admitted into a mysterious union with him. Thus it will be seen that the highest aim of the Sûfi is to attain self-annihilations by losing his humanity in Deity. This is to be accomplished by abstracting his mind from all worldly objects, and devoting himself to divine contemplation. Accordingly the Sûfis, neglect and despise all outward worship as useless and unnecessary. The Musuavi, their principal book, expatiates largely upon the love of God, the dignity of virtue, and the high and holy enjoyments arising from a union with God. All Sûfistic poetry and parlance are to be taken allegorically and symbolically. They represent the highest things by human emblems and human passions; and religion being with them identical with love, erotic terminology is chiefly used to illustrate the relation of man to God. Thus the beloved one's curls indicate the mysteries of the Deity; sensuous pleasures, and chiefly intoxication, indicate the highest degree of divine love, or ecstatic contemplation. Its principal religious writer is Jalaleddin Rulmi, and its theology prevails among the learned Mussulmans, who avow it without reserve. See. Chambers's Encyclop. s.v.; Gardner, Faiths of the World, s.v.; Christian Observer, 1819, p. 379; Mill, Mohammedanism.

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