Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Shaykh Isa's Alawi Ijaza

The following are some excerpts from Schuon's correspondence where he directly addresses the issue of the ijaza that he received from the Alawiyyah Tariqah. A formal break was made with the Alawiyyah of Mostaghanem in the 1950's when the current functionaries refused to accept his mantle of shaykh in conjunction with his refusal to accept their "propagandist program." It is evident that he did in fact establish a traditional filiation (according to Guenon's terminology) by receiving initiation from Shaykh Al-Alawi but his status as a muqaddam was ambiguous based upon the contents of his ijaza which allowed him the pre-existing right to bring people into Islam, as well as the fact that he was not instructed in whether or not he could initiate others into the practice of the invocation of the Unique Name. He assumed the mantle of Shaykh based upon a spontaneous interior recognition which was corroborated by the dreams of his disciples, not based upon the formal recognition of his master, a situation not uncommon within the annals of traditional sufism. These circumstances were, in fact, similar to those of Shaykh Al-Alawi himself. Although undisputedly a muqaddam of Shaykh Al-Buzidi, Shaykh Al-Alawi's own appointment as shaykh was also based upon interior recognition and dreams. The excerpts are as follows:


The determining particularity of the Maryamiyah Tarîqah does not lie in the fact that I have Christian disciples, nor in my relationship with the American Indian world; it lies in the fact that certain graces that have been decisive for the Tarîqah were given to me directly from Heaven. I am thinking here, and first of all, of the Supreme Name, that Heaven revealed to me when I found myself in Paris; despite this Heavenly favor, I went to Mostaganem a year later to receive the Name there from the Khalîfah. Next I am thinking of the Six Themes, that were given to me in Lausanne; finally, I am thinking of my books and of my texts, that is to say, of my way of presenting the Doctrine and the Path. All of this was bestowed to me by Heaven, and this circumstance obviously confers a very particular coloration to our Tarîqah.

(Letter 9/13/87)

Contrary to what you have been told, I was initiated by Shaykh Al-Allâwî during my first visit to Mostaganem in the presence of Sidi Addah bin Tunes; it was in 1933. Two years later, during my second visit to Mostaganem, Sidi Addah informed me of his decision to confer on me the function of Moqaddam, and he gave me a diploma—an ijâzah—signed by himself. I have this document in front of me on my desk as I write these lines.

After the death of the Khalîfah Sidi Addah, it was impossible for me to accept the propagandist program of his son, Sidi Al-Mahdi; as a result, his partisans became hostile toward me. Some of them claimed that I had never met Shaykh Al-Allawî and that I had been initiated by Sidi Addah; and others seem to be saying now that I would have solicited the function of Moqaddam and that Sidi Addah would have refused to give it to me. This shows how poorly people know me, all the more as no respectable man stoops to beg for a dignity.

When Sidi Addah gave me the diploma, there was there a faqîr, whose name I have forgotten, serving as a witness. If he is still alive and if he is suffering from cerebral arteriosclerosis and amnesia, this is not my fault; perhaps he is confusing two completely different things, assuming this is the person who is your informer.

Shaykh Al-Allawî will never ask me: “What have you done with my tarîqah?” for the Allâwiyah Tarîqah is spread out in various countries in the East and does not depend on me in any degree. Moreover, if Shaykh Al-Allâwî had asked me this question, it would imply that he recognized me as his successor, and even as his unique successor, something that I could not be if I have never been named Moqaddam, as you claim while believing all that people tell you.

(Letter 11/30/1987)

What I received in Mostaganem, by way of teachings, was the legal minimum of the sharî‘ah and, from the Shaykh Al-‘Alâwî, the Initiation. As for the metaphysical ideas, I “heard” them in Mostaganem—at least in a certain form—but did not “receive” them, for they were already familiar to me, on the one hand thanks to the Vedânta and on the other thanks to the celestial gift of pure intellection. Likewise, my function of murshid and my quality of Shaykh al-Barakah are gifts from Heaven; my title of moqaddam was only an administrative measure, which moreover was unnecessary according to Shaykh Abdul-Wâhid. As for the Method, namely the Invocation, it is a gift from Heaven through the intermediary of the Barakah of Shaykh Al-‘Alâwî, qaddasa ’Llâhu sirrahu; it comes with another gift: the Six Themes, which constitute, in all that they imply, the very substance of our Way. Allâhu karîm.

(Letter 3/16/1988)

The following is a fascimile of the ijaza presented to Shaykh Isa by Shaykh Adda Bentounes in 1935:

The following is a partial translation of the above from Frithjof Schuon: Life and Teachings by Jean-Baptiste Aymard and Patrick Laude, p. 21:

"I attest ... that we have had the visit of that person of pure soul, excellent virtues, and “sincere penitence,” our brother in Allâh Sidi ‘Îsâ Nûr ad-Dîn, European by birth and residence, and that he has recently had prolonged contact with us, which has allowed us to scrutinize his spiritual states, his words and his actions, and we have—and the truth must be told—seen only what reassures the believer and pleases the initiate of Allâh, the Loving-Kind and the Knowing, “who chooses for Himself whom He pleases, and guides to Himself him who turns to Him in penitence.” Considering the foregoing in the light of our knowledge of this brother in Allâh, I have authorized him to spread the call to Islam among his own people, the Europeans, transmitting the word of the Tawhîd ..."

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Q&A on the Traditional School

Why do you adhere to the principles of the traditional school?

I was initially attracted to the principles of the traditional school because they provide profound and intellectually satisfying answers to various important questions and problems. I think that this is a legitimate motivation to adhere to any perspective, even if it later proves to be false.

Does this mean that you are an ideologue?

Not necessarily as this depends upon the firmness of one's convictions. While I recognize the intelligence of various teachings of the traditional school, my own adherence is not dogmatic and uncompromising as would be the hallmarks of ascribing to them as an ideology.

How can you expect others to ascribe to the traditional school?

Historically, the school has never been subject to any kind of popularization or propaganda. The exponents explained various subjects to the best of their ability and those inspired by them continued to read and draw practical conclusions from their teachings.

Is one a traditionalist out of faith or intellection?

I believe that one is a traditionalist out of faith or perhaps more appropriately intellectual assent to principles. Once a transition is made from mediate and discursive knowledge to immediate and intuitive knowledge then one has become a gnostic.

Did the exponents of the traditional school indicate the means whereby their assertions may be verified?

Yes. The expositions of the traditional school are based upon the science of metaphysics. Unlike the discursive methods of philosophy, metaphysical principles may be applied in different domains and given a certain degree of rational demonstration but they are not susceptible to proof through dialectical reasoning alone. Within the school, expositions of traditional doctrine are generally considered to be theoretical and propaedeutic to metaphysical realization which is obtained with the support of sacred rites and contemplative disciplines but which ultimately comes from God.

Why do traditionalists sometimes argue with others and engage in polemics and apologetics?

People interested in the traditional school generally discuss and dispute amongst themselves to explore various subtleties of doctrine and method. They also sometimes engage in apologetics to explain their understanding of principles to those who are condemnatory toward them. Most disputes can be reconciled through the reminder that engaging in a path of self-discipline and devotion that leads to knowledge of God is ultimately more important than thinking about it and discussing it.

What is "initiation" and how does it work?

As it pertains to the spiritual life, I think that initiation can be described most succinctly as a catalyzing spiritual influence often transmitted ritually from one person to another. How it works is perhaps best explained by Plato who said that, "after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself."

Does a person really need to join a spiritual order as a rule rather than as an exception if they seek to actualize the spiritual reality of being human?

While there are many different possibilities within the domain of spirituality, the phenomenon of initiation always takes place through transmission whether or not this occurs within the context of a particular organization. This is not to say that a catalyst cannot occur independently or individually as in the case of mysticism, but simply that with regard to initiation in a specific rather than a general sense, we are speaking of a transmission that occurs between people usually in association with some kind of direct physical contact or agency.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ibn Arabi and Other Religions

I think that the passage from the Futuhat al-Makkiyya being considered by Keller and Chittick is ambiguous and inconclusive even with the continuation provided by Keller. Both authors are translating the same passage in a similar manner and drawing vastly different conclusions by each applying his own preferred interpretation. Personally, I would lend more credence to Chittick's interpretation principally because Ibn Arabi's writings are a premier focus of his scholarship toward which he appears to have devoted a lifetime of investigation.

Later in his article, Keller stated, "In fact, one looks in vain in the works of Ibn al-`Arabi for the belief of the validity of currently existing non-Islamic religions, for this is kufr." On the contrary, there is a lengthy historical precedent of conflicting opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the attribution of heresy to Ibn Arabi precisely due to the articulation of perspectives that contradict normative elements of Islamic faith. Shaykh G.F. Haddad has catalogued numerous of these positions and even contributed the opinion that portions of the Fusus al-Hikam must have been foreign interpolations because they contradict the normative principles of Islam. He wrote, "The attribution of this work in its present form to Ibn 'Arabi is undoubtedly incorrect as the Fusus contradicts some of the most basic tenets of Islam ... such as ... the abrogation of all religious creeds other than Islam ..."

In The Exo-Esoteric Symbiosis, Frithjof Schuon expresses the opinion that the clearest testimony of Ibn Arabi regarding the perspective of universality may be gleaned from The Ringstone of the Wisdom of Unity in the Word of Hud as follows (according to the Dagli translation):

"At all events, it must be that each individual be possessed of a belief regarding his Lord, by means of which he returns to Him and within which he seeks after Him. The Real discloses Himself to him within it and acknowledges it. If He disclosed Himself to him as something else he would deny it and seek refuge from it, and would, in reality, be showing bad adab with Him, although in his own eyes he is conducting himself with adab with Him. One only believes in a divinity through what he has made within his own soul. The divinity of beliefs comes about through this making. They see naught but their own souls and what they have made therein. So contemplate the fact that the hierarchy of mankind in their knowledge of God is their very hierarchy in terms of their vision on the Day of Resurrection. I have taught you the reason that makes this necessary. Beware lest you bind yourself with a specific belief and reject others, for much good will escape you. Indeed, the knowledge of reality as it is will escape you. Be then, within yourself, a hyle for the forms of all belief, for God is too vast and too great to be confined to one belief to the exclusion of another, for indeed He says, Wheresoever ye turn, there is the Face of God."

Of course, even an explicit description such as this may be subject to different interpretations and nuances of translation. However, overall I believe that the proposed interpretation is consistent with Ibn Arabi's metaphysics with the caveat that he not only exclusively followed the religion of Islam but likewise considered it preeminent among the traditions.