Jesus in Sufism

Introduction

Sufism (Tasawwuf) is the mystical branch of Islam. This mystical movement started when Islam made direct contact with Eastern Christianity in the 8th century from which it inherited therefore motivation and principles. In later centuries also elements from Hinduism and Buddhism were integrated, but it stayed within the Muslim society [18]. Sufism has guidelines to reach spiritual experience. A practioner of Sufism is called a Sufi. He is under supervision of a spiritual leader to fight against his own ego to be open for divine experiences. The religious experience is very important, and therefore a Sufi differs from other Muslims. A Sufi believes that experience of God can be reached already in this life.

Practices of Sufism

Sufism is a search for the knowledge of the living God. For a Sufi, God is the One Real Being which underlies all phenomena. For the Sufi world vision, God is everything and there is nothing but Him. Man’s purpose is to concentrate on the identity of God by leading an ascetic life. With this method the Sufi wants to be delivered from the flesh and to lead a spiritual life. This can be realized by completing a number of stages (maqamat) and personal experiences (ahwal). It is a path of growing in spiritual power. This path cumulates by reaching of one’s inner self with the Essence of God (fana). After this, the Sufi becomes the ‘Perfect Man’ (al-insanul-kamil). Because Sufi’s believe that material things are a blockade to devotion, they are called ascetics. Although Sufism is based upon Islamic doctrines, it has a different spirituality. In Sufism one will come in harmony with God through love and devotion in a selfless way.

Ibn Arabi

Ibn Arabi (1165–1240 AD) was the greatest of all Sufi’s. He is called ‘The Greatest Master’ (al-Shaykh al-Akbar). This title means that no one described the practices of the Islamic tradition with so much depth and such a detail [19]. He came in contact with Jews and Christians during his many trips in Spain. Ibn Arabi learned Greek philosophy and Christian sources to describe mystical practices. He studied the Greek philosopher Philo. Philo described the doctrine of the Logos, a merely human or universal soul. Ibn Arabi gave the Logos many meanings, like Word, Eternal Wisdom and Reality of Reality (Haqiqatu'l Haqa'iq) [20]. He believed that every prophet has a relation to a reality which he called a Logos (Kalimah). In his world view, God would have hidden forever, when there were no prophets. To know that the 'Perfect Man' is connected with the Logos can be known by mystical experience [21]. The doctrine of the Logos is a part of Neoplatonism. Therefore Ibn Arabi brought concepts of Neoplantonism into Sufism.

Augustine

Like Ibn Arabi, also Augustine (354-430 AD) was attracted by Neoplatonism and the teachings of the Logos. He knew that the flesh was one the most powerful and challenging force to fight against. For Augustine truth is a byproduct of God’s general revelation to all of mankind. He read the Bible, in which the Logos (translated as the Word) is identified as Jesus Christ (John 1:1-17). He also discovered that where the philosophers of Neoplatonism were looking for is the person of Jesus Christ [22]. When Augustine had found this, he stopped with the philosophies of Neoplantonism. While they only might speak the truth about God’s nature, they lack the means of access to it. Neoplatonism and Sufism are without the power to initialise right action, and are therefore not complete. Augustine eventually decided to abandon Neoplatonism altogether in favor of a Christianity based on his own reading of the Bible.

Perfect Standard

Augustine writes about the perfect standard made by Jesus Christ: as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard [23]. The essential part of what Jesus Christ spoke on the mount (Matthew 5:3-12) is:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  • The conclusion of what Jesus Christ spoke on the mount is: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). It is an advise to seek the path in the direction of perfection and the Kingdom of God.

    Your position

    Reading works of Neoplantonism was an instrument in the intellectual conversion of Augustine. After this a moral struggle came, till he heard in his garden the voices of a child, saying: ‘take up and read!’. He opened the New Testament at random and lighted on the words (Romans 13:13-14) which sealed his moral conversion. What followed was a conversion of will. Augustine sought for truth, because he felt a need for it, and he interpreted this as a search for Christ and Christian wisdom, as the attraction of the divine beauty. He had found an answer to the question: can we attain certainty [24]? How to start in attaining certainty can be found on the page: Come to Jesus.