|05-22-2011, 05:46 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2011
perennialism (Nasr, Ling etl)
Found the following on the net, a part of someones dissertation, its about perennialism (Nasr,Ling type) by Abd al-Malik Salam
NEOPLATONISM AND ISLAM
Neoplatonism is the philosophical school, developed by
Plotinus and his followers in the third century, which
combined the ideas of Plato and other Greek
philosophers with Oriental mysticism. Adherents of the
school hold that ‘all material and spiritual existence
emanated from the One-the transcendent Godhead-through
the actions of the divine mind, or logos’ (Drury 1992:
A very similar idea is expressed by Nasr when he
refers to ‘the metacosmic principle which is the
Intellect’ and ‘spiritus or nous’. It is ‘itself
divine and only human to the extent that man
participates in it’. Furthermore:
‘The Logos or Buddhi or ‘aql, as the Intellect is
called in various traditions, is the luminous centre
which is the generating agent of the world-for “it was
by the Word that all things were made”-of man and of
religion. It is God’s knowledge of Himself and the
first in His creation’ (Nasr 1981a: 146-147. Cf.
Plotinus 1967: III, 4 and Aristotle 1974: III, 5).
He also asserts that ‘true metaphysics of the highest
order’ can be found ‘among the Greeks in the
Pythagorean-Platonic writings, and especially in
Plotinus’. True metaphysics, when ‘tied with a
philosophy which is at once perennial and universal’
is ‘the heart of the philosophia perennis’ (Nasr
1968a: 82-83). This synthesis is apparent in Nasr’s
belief that ‘all traditions are earthly manifestations
of celestial archetypes related ultimately to the
immutable archetype of the Primordial Tradition’ (Nasr
1981a: 74). He reproduces a passage from Sophia
perennis, an article by Schuon in which he refers to
the ‘fundamental metaphysical truths’ that ‘lie
buried’ in ‘the pure Intellect’. According to Schuon,
only ‘the one who is spiritually contemplative’ or
‘gnostic’ and ‘the ‘philosophers’ in the real and
still innocent sense of the word: for example,
Pythagoras, Plato and to a large extent also
Aristotle’ possess access to these truths (Schuon In
Nasr 1981a: 88). Nasr describes them as ‘those who
have the possibility of intellectual intuition’ and
the experience they undergo as ‘microcosmic
revelation’ which allows them to access ‘the ultimate
science of the Real’, this being synonymous with the
concepts of prajŠna in Buddhism, jŠn¢ana in Hindusim
and ma‘rifah in Islam (ibid.: 131f.)
Nasr contends that the wisdom ‘of Plato, Plotinus and
other Graeco-Alexandrian sages and writings such as
Hermeticism’ should not be seen ‘as simply human
philosophy but as sacred doctrines of divine
inspiration’. He argues that some Muslims regarded the
former to be a prophet and that Muslim philosophers
believed ‘the Greek philosophers had learned their
doctrines from the prophets’, which although
historically unverifiable ‘nevertheless contains a
profound truth’ (ibid.: 35). Nasr echoes the views of
Shih¢ab al-D³n al-Suhraward³ al-Maqt¢ul (d. 1191
C.E.), who he claims speaks about ‘Divine Wisdom’ in a
way which is ‘almost identical with what Sophia and
philosophia perennis mean traditionally’ (ibid.: 72).
He cites Suhraward³ in Three Muslim Sages as saying
that ‘inner vision’ is the means he uses to arrive at
the Truth and that
‘the procedure of the master of philosophy and im¢am
of wisdom, the Divine Plato, was the same, and the
sages of Philosophy who preceded Plato in time like
Hermes, the father of philosophy, followed the same
path’ ( In Nasr 1976: 63).
Muslim Orthodoxy has taken a view of the philosophers
which is rather different to that of Nasr. It has
never trusted ‘those who would abandon the science of
Shafi‘³ and M¢alik, and elevate the opinion of
Empedocles to the level of law in Islam’ (Y¢aq¢ut In
Goldziher 1981: 185-186). Smith (1940) notes that
Suhraward³ ‘was put to death for his unorthodox views’
and that he ‘accepted the doctrine of transmigration’
which ‘orthodox Islam repudiated’ (op. cit.: 352-354).
In the introduction to his Tahaf¢ut al-Fal¢asifah,
Al-Ghaz¢al³ condemns as heretics those who ‘have heard
the awe-inspiring names of people like Socrates,
Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.’ and ‘have been
deceived by the exaggerations’ of their followers who
claim that the ‘extraordinary intellectual powers’ of
these philosophers ‘justifies their bold attempts to
discover the Hidden Things’. He accuses them of
accepting falsehood ‘blindly’ and ‘uncritically’ and
refusing ‘to be content with the religion followed by
their ancestors’ (Al-Ghaz¢al³ 1958: 2).
Keller (1991) approves of the use of ‘Platonic
philosophical language’ in Sufism to make ‘needful
metaphysical distinctions such as “being”, “act” and
“essence”’, but rejects it ‘in substantive doctrinal
conceptions of the Platonic worldview such as
“immutable essences”, “archetypes”, “Ideas”, and so
forth’. He emphasises that
‘Sufis, whatever vocabulary they may choose, behold
the Truth by the sun of divine revelation, not the
movements of human introspection, and in a word, are
illumined, while Plato is unillumined’ (op. cit.:
Evidently, Nasr’s approach is not limited to the use
of necessary terminology which Keller refers to, but
includes the incorporation of key Neoplatonic notions
in his conception of the perennial philosophy.
THE PHILOSOPHIA PERENNIS
‘By philosophia perennis’ in Nasr’s view, ‘is meant a
knowledge which has always and will always be and is
of a universal character’. It deals with ‘universal
principles’ and has existed throughout time among
different peoples, being ‘contained at the heart of
all religions or traditions’. The intellect can access
it via those traditions and ‘by means of methods,
rites, symbols, images and other means sanctified by
the message from Heaven or the Divine Origin’. This
knowledge, or ‘gnosis’, ‘provides the key for the
understanding of both the necessity of the plurality
of religions and the way to penetrate into other
religious universes’. Nasr confesses that this
understanding of the philosophia perennis is that of
the traditionalist school, whose ‘first expositor in
the West’ was the French metaphysician, René Guénon
(Nasr 1984a: 182f.; idem 1987: 136ff.)
René Guénon and the Primordial Tradition
Many of the ideas held by Nasr are found in the
thought of René Guénon, which is not surprising as the
former admits to being an adherent of the
traditionalist school. Guénon believes in ‘the
essential unity of tradition underlying the diversity
of more or less outward forms, which are really no
more than different garments clothing one and the same
truth’, this truth being ‘the great primordial
Tradition’ (Guénon 1958: ixf. Cf. Nasr 1981a: 67ff.).
He also refers to the ‘sacred science’ which proceeds
‘from universal principles’ and stresses the ‘premier
role of intellectual intuition’ in gaining the
‘highest’ knowledge ‘that some, in whom the
contemplative tendency predominates, may attain’
(Guénon 1935: 21).
Guénon appears to have developed most of his basic
ideas before secretly embracing Islam and being
initiated into the Sh¢adhil³ Sufi order in 1912.
According to Waterfield (1987), ‘the basis on which he
built all his work’ had already been formulated by
this time, and ‘he did not develop any significantly
new ideas after that date’ (op. cit.: 43). In the
preceding years, Guénon was affiliated to a number of
occult and fringe Masonic groups. Although he later
repudiated occultism in his writings, he does seem to
have retained some occult doctrines. Waterfield notes
that a number of his ideas, including the concept of a
Primordial Tradition, are found in the works of the
influential occultist writer (and friend of Guénon)
Of all the occult movements, it was the Theosophical
Society that was most severely criticised by Guénon.
He devoted a lengthy volume, Le Théosophisme, histoire
d’une pseudo-religion, to exposing the activities of
the Society. There are, however, striking similarities
between Guénon’s thought and Theosophy. Blavatsky
(1888), who founded the Society, refers to ‘the
archaic truths which are the basis of all religions’
(op. cit.: vii) that are revealed by ‘comparative
study and analysis’ of those faiths (idem. 1939: 3f.).
She describes how each religion was evolved ‘from
ancestral traditions’ which constitute ‘the primitive
“wisdom-religion”’ (idem. 1960: 216), and that this
‘wisdom-religion was esoteric in all ages’. She also
states that ‘Gnosis’ or ‘Secret Wisdom’ can be
achieved through ‘real ecstasy’ which Plotinus defined
as ‘the liberation of the mind from its finite
consciousness’ (idem. 1939: 7, 10).
These similarities can be explained by the fact that
the Theosophical Society was so successful that, as
Waterfield states, ‘it was the main vehicle for the
dissemination of the idea that secret wisdom was
available from the East’ (Waterfield 1987: 35). Other
occult groups were therefore influenced by the ideas
of the movement. Also, a number of Guénon’s friends
and associates, including Ivan Aguéli who initiated
him into the Sh¢adhil³ çtar³qah, had been Theosophists
(Vide ibid.: chaps. 2 and 3).
Nasr indirectly acknowledges the importance of occult
ideas in Guénon’s thought, pointing out that ‘the
rediscovery of the sacred in Oriental teachings and
the attempt to regain knowledge of a traditional
character’ in the nineteenth century by groups such as
the Theosophical Society ‘provides a valuable
background for the understanding of the significance
of authentic traditional teachings in the West’. These
teachings were first expounded early this century by
‘a small number of Europeans’ who had studied the
Oriental traditions. Specifically, Nasr names Albert
de Pouvourville, an occultist described by Waterfield
as having a ‘powerful influence’ on Guénon, ‘Abd al
H¢ad³ (Aguéli) as well as Guénon himself (Nasr 1981a:
100, 123; Waterfield 1987: 36).
Despite his break with occultism, Guénon ‘remained
convinced of the importance of masonry as a
transmitter of the Primordial Tradition’ and
maintained his interest in it ‘throughout his life’
(Waterfield 1987: 36, 46), contributing to journals
such as the Speculative Mason long after his
conversion (Crouch 1990: 17f.). This may account for
why some of Guénon’s basic concepts are almost
identical to certain Masonic beliefs. To illustrate
this, Mazet’s (1992) pertinent comments need to be
quoted at length:
‘The way the basic principles [of Freemasonry] deal
with the differences of religions suggests an
underlying belief in a transcendental truth of which
the various religions would be different expressions
in different historical and cultural contexts. Such a
belief is generally recognised as part of the
metaphysical foundations of the distinction between
the exoteric and esoteric sides of religions. Then the
esoteric character of Masonry would consist in leading
its members, each through a proper understanding of
his own faith, to this transcendental truth. Indeed,
such a view is professed by many freemasons...’ (op.
One such mason, an Anglican vicar writing under the
pseudonym Vindex affirms in Light Invisible, The
Freemasons Answer to Darkness Visible that Freemasonry
‘embodies in itself the fundamental truths and ancient
mysteries on which every religion is based’ (In Knight
While Guénon may have been the first Western advocate
of the traditionalist school, Nasr insists that it is
Frithjof Schuon who ‘perfected’ the school’s doctrines
(Nasr 1987: 138). It is to Schuon that Nasr
acknowledges the greatest debt for the development of
his thought and his exaltation of his master is
‘Schuon seems like the cosmic intellect itself
impregnated by the energy of divine grace surveying
the whole of the reality surrounding man and
elucidating all the concerns of human existence in the
light of sacred knowledge’ (Nasr 1981a: ix, 107)
Islam and Other Religions
Nasr’s belief in the philosophia perennis accounts for
his positive view of faiths other than Islam. In
particular his opinion of Hinduism, the study of which
many traditionalist writers appear to be preoccupied
with, is most favourable. He describes it as the
‘oldest of religions and the only echo of the
“primordial religion” to survive to this day’ (Nasr
1981a: 6). The ‘primordial nature of Hinduism in the
Muslim mind’ has led ‘many Muslim authors’ to identify
‘the name of the bar¢ahimah (namely Hindus) with
Abraham’ (idem. 1966a: 59).
In answer to Sh¢ahrastan³’s objection to the belief
that Hindus ‘are called Bar¢ahimah because of their
affiliation with Abraham-upon whom be peace’ since
‘they are a people especially known to have denied
prophecy completely and totally’, Nasr replies that
‘this theological criticism does not in any way
detract from the metaphysical significance of the
assertion ...’ (ibid.). He seems here to be espousing
what Coplestone refers to as a ‘double-truth theory’,
that a doctrine can be theologically false yet at the
same time philosophically (or esoterically) true (cf.
Coplestone 1982: 100).
Nasr then refers to an article by Guénon, The
Mysteries of the Letter N¢un, for an elaboration of
the relationship between Hinduism and Islam. Guénon
describes Hinduism in this essay as representing ‘the
most direct heritage of the Primordial Tradition’ and
Islam as representing ‘the ultimate form of
traditional orthodoxy for the present cycle’ (Nasr,
ibid.; Guénon 1980a: 100).
‘The primordial tradition’ to Nasr is ‘none other
than’ the d³n al-han³f which is the ‘original message
of unity (al-tawh³d)’ with which Abraham was
identified with. Nasr claims that it is ‘like the
san¢atana dharma of Hinduism’ which has a ‘profound
affinity’ with the d³n al-han³f ‘on the metaphysical
plane’ (Nasr 1966a: 53, 59; idem. 1981a: 87). This
appears to be an attempt by Nasr to validate Hinduism
since, as he understands it, at the esoteric level
both Islam and Hinduism represent pure monotheism. A
similar approach is taken towards Christianity, when
he refers to ‘those Sufis who tried to interpret the
Christian Trinity as an assertion rather negation of
Divine Unity’ (idem. 1966a: 59).
In an interview in 1994, Nasr responds to John Hick’s
assertion that the historical Jesus ‘did not think of
himself as God, or the second person of the divine
Trinity’ by stating that ‘as a Muslim scholar, I would
say that this recent [historical] discovery confirms
what the Quran says explicitly about Christ, that he
is in fact a prophet and not the son of God’. Nasr
does not accept, however, that God could allow ‘one of
the major religions of the world’ to be ‘misguided for
two thousand years’. He therefore insists that ‘even
if this doctrine is not historically borne out by
existing documents, it was divinely willed for
Christians and of course not Muslims’ and so ‘as a
Muslim’ he would ‘defend the traditional Christian
understanding of that doctrine’. This concept is given
in more detail by Nasr earlier in the interview, when
he declares, ‘I believe that the sacred rites, the
sacred scriptures, and also certain fundamental
formulations of theology are divinely ordained within
each religion by God’ (Aslan 1996: 268, 271f.).
The ‘most profound encounter’ between Islam and other
faiths for Nasr, however, is not theological. It
occurs ‘on the level of esotericism, in the
perspective of Sufism’ which he considers to be ‘the
most universal affirmation of that perennial wisdom
which stands at the heart of Islam and in fact all
religion as such’. Nasr identifies this ‘perennial
wisdom’ as ‘the supreme doctrine of Unity’ which Sufis
refer to as ‘the religion of love’. He cites verses
from Ibn al-‘Arab³’s Tarjum¢an al-Ashw¢aq, including
the words, ‘I follow the religion of Love: whatever
may Love’s camels take, that is my religion and my
faith’. According to Nasr, this love is ‘the realised
aspect of gnosis’ and ‘a transcendent knowledge that
reveals the inner unity of all religions’. Hence Ibn
al-‘Arab³, he opines, ‘asserts openly the doctrine of
the universality of revelation’ (Nasr 1966a: 65).
Caspar (1981) appears to take issue with this approach
to Sufism. He remarks that to simply ‘juxtapose
selected Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Christian texts on
love’ or discuss ‘union with God, grace, charity,
etc., on the basis of proximate translations’ is far
easier than ‘to isolate the precise meaning of the
expressions used ... taking into consideration the
essential nature of the language, the personal
synthesis of each mystic and his own living
experience’ (op. cit.: 166).
Keller (1996) accuses those who support ‘their emotive
preference for the validity of other religions from
the books of famous Sufis, such as Ibn al-‘Arabi’ of
holding a belief which is ‘the opposite of orthodox
Islam’. He refers specifically to Imaginal Worlds: Ibn
al-‘Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity by
the traditionalist writer and associate of Nasr,
William Chittick. The author maintains that the shaykh
does not believe in the abrogation of previous
religions by Islam. He translates a passage from Ibn
al-‘Arab³’s al-Futuh¢at al-Makk³yyah, which begins
with the words, ‘All revealed religions [shar¢a’i‘]
are lights’ and ends stating that ‘this explains why
we have been required in our all-inclusive religion to
have faith in the truth of all messengers and all the
revealed religions. They are not rendered null by
abrogation-that is the opinion of the ignorant’.
Keller questions Chittick’s rendering, and provides a
‘fuller translation’ of the passage:
‘The religious laws (shara’i‘) are all lights ... This
is why we are required by our universal law to believe
in all prophetic messengers (rusul) and to believe
that their laws are truth, and did not turn into
falsehood by being abrogated; that is the
misrepresentation of the ignorant ...’
Keller’s version continues upto the words: ‘if the
prophetic messengers had been alive in his [Muhammad’s
(r)] time, they would have followed him as their
religious laws have followed his law’. This last
phrase ‘suggests that everything their laws (shara’i‘
means nothing else) contained has not only been
abrogated, but is implicitly thereby contained in the
new revelation’ (Keller 1996: 3f.). Both Nasr and
Chittick do not seem to have avoided the pitfall which
Brewster (1976) warns students of Sufism about, that
they ‘do not force mysticism
into a pre-conceived framework of ideas’ (op. cit.:
An alternative view of Islam and other religions is
provided by al-Faruqi (1978), who cites the following
had³th: ‘All men are born Muslims (in the sense in
which Islam is equated with din al fitrah); it is his
parents that Christianize or Judaize him’ [Bukh¢ar³].
The din al fitrah, whose adherents are referred to as
hanifs in the Quran, is ‘what God has implanted in
human nature - the recognition of His transcendence,
unity, holiness and ultimate goodness - is prior to
any tradition’. This ‘religio naturalis’, as al-Faruqi
also names it, ‘is always to be kept distinct from the
religious traditions of history’ (al-Faruqi 1978:
Keller is unequivocal in opposing the idea that
religions other than Islam are valid. He cites the
verse of the Quran: ‘Whoever seeks a religion other
than Islam will never have it accepted from him, and
shall be of those who have truly failed in the next
life’ [Keller’s rendering of 3:85]. He then quotes
from Im¢am Nawaw³’s Rawda al-®Talib³n:
‘Someone who does not believe that whoever follows
another religion besides Islam is an unbeliever (like
Christians), or doubts that such a person is an
unbeliever, or considers their sect to be valid, is
himself an unbeliever (kafir) even if he manifests
Islam and believes in it’
Keller notes that this is not only the stance of the
Sh¢afi‘³ madhhab which Nawaw³ represents, ‘but is also
the recorded position of all three other Sunni
schools’, producing references from the ‘foremost
fatwa resource’ of each one. (Keller 1996: 2, 9)
Aristotle (1974) De Anima (translation of Books 2 and
3 with some passages from Book 1 by D. W. Hamlyn
Aslan, A. (1996) ‘Religions and the Concept of the
Ultimate: An Interview with John Hick and Seyyed
Hossein Nasr’, Islamic Quarterly Vol. 40, 4 pp.
Blavatsky, H. P. (1888) The Secret Doctrine: The
Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, Volume
I - Cosmogenisis London Theosophical Publishing
Brewster, D. P. (1976) ‘The Study of Sufism: Towards a
Methodology’, Religion Vol. 6, 1 Spring pp. 31-47
Blavatsky, H. P. (1939) The Key to Theosophy Pasadena
Theosophical University Press
Caspar, R. (1981) ‘La Mystique musulmane: reserche et
tendences’ (Eng. Trans. In M. L. Swartz (ed. and
translator), Studies on Islam, pp. 164-184 New York
Oxford University Press
Coplestone, F. (1982) Religion and The One:
Philosophies East and West Tunbridge Wells Search
Crouch, J. S. (1990) René Guénon: A Check-list of the
Writings of René Guénon in English Translation, With a
Select List of the Material in English About Him
Melbourne n. p.
Drury, N. (1992) Dictionary of Mysticism and the
Esoteric Traditions Bridport Prism Press
Al-Faruqi, I. R. (1978) ‘Islam and Other Faiths’ In A.
Gauhar (ed.), The Challenge of Islam, pp. 82-111
London Islamic Council of Europe
Al-Ghaz¢al³ (1958) Tahaf¢ut al-Fal¢asifah (Eng. Trans.
by S. A. Kamali) Lahore Pakistan Philosophical
Goldiziher, I. (1981) ‘Stellung der alten islamischen
Orthodoxie zu den antiken Wissenschaften’ (Eng. Trans.
In M. L. Swartz, op. cit., pp. 185-215 New York Oxford
Guénon, R. (1935) ‘Sacred and Profane Science’,
Visva-Bharati Quarterly (translated from the French by
A. K. Coomaraswamy) Vol. 1, 3 (New Series) November
Guénon, R. (1958) Symbolism of the Cross (translated
by A. Macnab) London Luzac and Company
Guénon, R. (1980a) ‘The Mysteries of the Letter N¢un’,
Studies in Comporative Religion Vol. 14, 1-2 pp.
Keller, N. H. M. (1991) The Reliance of the Traveller
(translation and commentary of al-Misr³’s ‘Umd¢at
al-Salik) Dubai Modern Printing Press
Keller, N. H. M. (1996) Letter to ‘Abd al-Matin: On
the Validity of all Religions in the Thought of Ibn
al-‘Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir n. p.
Knight, S. (1984) The Brotherhood: The Secret World of
the Freemasons London Granada
Mazet, E. (1992) ‘Freemasonry and Esotericism’ In A.
Faivre and J. Needleman, Modern Esoteric Spirituality,
pp. 248-271. New York Crossroad
Nasr, S. H. (1966a) ‘Islam and the Encounter of
Religions’, Islamic Quarterly Vol. 10, 3-4 July-Dec.
Nasr, S. H. (1968a) The Encounter of Man and Nature:
The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man London Allen and
Nasr, S. H. (1976) Three Muslim Sages New York
Nasr, S. H. (1981a) Knowledge and the Sacred Edinburgh
Edinburgh University Press
Nasr, S. H. (1984a) ‘The Philosophia Perennis and the
Study of Religion’ In F. Whaling (ed.), The World’s
Religious Traditions, Current Perspectives on
Religious Studies: Essays in Honour of Wilfred
Cantwell Smith, pp. 181-200 Edinburgh T. and T. Clark
Nasr, S. H. (1987) ‘Guénon, René’, In M. Eliade (ed.),
The Encyclopedia of Religion, pp. 136-138 New York
Nasr, S. H.
Plotinus (1967) Enneads (Eng. Trans. by A. H.
Armstrong) London Heinemann
Smith, M. (1940) ‘Transmigration and the Sufis’,
Moslem World Vol. 30, 4 pp. 351-357
Waterfield, R. (1987) René Guénon and the Future of
the West: The life and writings of a 20th-century
metaphysician Great Britain Crucible
|05-22-2011, 06:05 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2011
also the following might be useful
Muhyiddin Ibn al-`Arabi
Amidst Religions (adyan)
And Schools of Thought (madhabib)
SHAKH AL-`AKBAR AND UNITY OF RELIGIONS
Among the Orientalists and non-Muslim writers we find those who try to portray Shaykh al-`Akbar as a common denominator or factor of both the revealed and non-revealed religions. As if he were the Joker of playing cards, for them he is a believer in each and every religion. It was their erroneous understanding of what he wrote in the Tarjuman al-Ashwaq that led them to such belief, for he said:
My heart has become capable of accepting every form
A pasture for gazelles and a monastery for monks
A temple for idols and a pilgrim’s Ka`ba
Tablets for the Torah and the book of the Qur`an
I follow the religion of love wherever its mounts lead
This is my religion and my faith
Those who read these lines, without reading the Shaykh’s commentary, took them to indicate a different meaning, contrary to what he originally intended. In so doing they neither accepted the Shaykh’s explanation in the same book, nor tried to understand what he meant through reading his other works. The reason behind such misunderstanding is their confusing between the divine self-disclosure in the forms of beliefs, i.e. witness of the Real (al-Haqq) in the form of every belief (Fut., I, pp. 238, 405, and 589; II, pp. 92, 326, and 498; IV, pp. 100, 101, 165, 405, and 415.) - which is what these lines mean - and the object of belief, which the Real (al-Haqq) orders the servant to follow on the tongues of His Messengers. For the self-disclosure in the forms of beliefs refers to the One disclosing himself, and He is the Real exalted and glorified, while the object of belief refers to the servant who is obliged to believe in God in accordance with what he was ordered on the tongue of the Prophet, which is found in the Revealed Law.
The closest example to it is our belief that God is the creator of everything, this includes all the acts (af`al) of the servant; nevertheless, the servant is responsible for his wrong actions, and all evils that originate from him, and, equally, he is rewarded for all good that emanates from him and at his hands. So what they imagined is the result of their incorrect understanding of the Shaykh’s commentary on what God the exalted said: ‘Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him’ [Q.XVII:23]. For the Shaykh ‘decreed’ here means ordainment not a commandment.
In the same way they erroneously understood the Shaykh when he said: ‘None is worshipped other than God, even those who associate others with God worship none but God in the very objects of worship that they name as associates.’ (Fut., II, p. 92). They isolated such a statement, which is supported by what the Real said about those who associate others with God, when they admit: ‘We only worship them in order that they may bring us nigh in nearness to God’ [Q.XXXIX:3], instead of linking it to what he wrote about the importance of closely adhering to the Revealed Law. They also did not pay attention to what the Shaykh, may God be pleased with him, said:
‘He who prostrates himself to other than God, by God’s command, seeking nearness to God and obeying God, will be felicitous and attain deliverance; but he who prostrates himself to other than God, without God’s command, seeking nearness, will be wretched.’ (Fut., III, p. 367).
Another cause for the mistake, of those who speak about the universality of the Shaykh in his belief, stems from over-emphasizing his words: ‘Mercy is all-encompassing and punishment is not eternal.’ Again, they paid no attention to his other statements:
Torment and the sensory torture by fire, the burning of flesh, the biting of serpents and scorpions, and all other types of sensory and supersensory punishment, will continue for a period which he estimates to last fifty thousand years that are equal to the years of this world. (Fut., III, p. 383).
They were unable to comprehend what he meant when he said that the form of punishment is everlasting and never changes, even after the end of the duration of punishment, and the encompassing of mercy to the people of wretchedness; for God the exalted will configure the people of the fire - those who belong to it and shall never come out of it - on a temperament through which they will enjoy that by which were tormented. Could we find an intelligent person who would hope to enjoy stench, pus and the burning of flesh, and abandons delight in the gardens with the beautiful companions, beauty in the abode of sheer pleasure, that is, Paradise, the abode of the felicitous ones?
About the Jews specifically the Shaykh wrote in his commentary on the story of Mary, when she pointed to Jesus, peace be upon him, as she brought him to her folk: ‘Mary, peace be upon her, resorted to ishara because of the people of calumny and heresy (ahl al-ifk wa’l ilhad). (Fut., I, p. 279).
He also wrote about them in connection with the interpretation of the Qur`an:
One should never venture to interpret the speech of God according to the likes of these tremendously corrupted stories, like the story of Yusuf, Dawud and similar Prophets, may peace be upon them, and also Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, as they are only based on corrupt interpretations, and dubious sources, related by people who said about God that which He mentions in His Book. So, if the one who teaches people repeats such stories in his circle, the angels would hate him, depart from his circle, and he will incur the wrath of God. If his circle is attended by one whose belief is not complete, he will find in such stories a license (rukhsa) that he can rely upon in his disobedience, claiming: ‘If the Prophets committed such acts [as the stories narrate] who could I be in relation to them? By God, far be it from what the accursed Jews attributed to the Prophets.’ (Fut., II, p. 256).
About the Jews and Christians in reference to Jesus, peace be upon him, he wrote:
He saluted himself in the three states referring to the verse in the Qur’an when God, on the tongue of Jesus the son of Mary, says: ‘So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life again’ [Q.XIX:33]. God the most high thus declared His incomparability (tanzih), above the misguiding utterances of the people of misguidance, when the verse declared: ‘Such [was] Jesus the son of Mary: [it is] a statement of truth about which they [vainly] dispute [Q.XIX:34]. (Ibn al-`Arabi, al-Tanazzulat al-Musiliyya, p.172.)
In these passages we see the Shaykh calling the Jews and the Christians the people of calumny, heresy and misguidance.
There is no doubt that those who imagine that Shaykh al-`Akbar believes and propagates the doctrine of the unity of religions have never read his writings on Jihad, or his call to fight against the unbelievers. (Ibn al-`Arabi, Fut., IV, p. 470; Ijaz al-Bayan fi’t Tarjama `an al-Qur`an, ‘Fight in the cause of Allah’, [Q.II:190]).
They have also not read his letters to both Sultan `Izz al-Din Kaykaus (Fut., IV, p. 533), and Sultan al-Nur Ibn al-Rashid, (Ibn al-`Arabi, al-Musamarat, II), for if what they have imagined was true, no meaning would be left for unbelief (kujr), faith (Iman), the Garden, the Hellfire, felicity and wretchedness. While the Shaykh, may God be pleased with him, confirms that the people of the hellfire are of four categories, the second category is that of the associators (al-mushrikun), those who associate others with God, and the third category is made up of atheists (al-mu`attila), those who completely deny divinity and say that this universe has no God. (Fut., I, p. 301).
والله يقول الحق وهو يهدي السبيل
والحمد لله رب العالمين
محمود محمود الغراب
- MUHYIDDIN IBN `ARABI, A COMMEMORATIVE VOLUME - MUHYIDDIN IBN `ARABI SOCIETY - 1993, P/199.
|05-25-2012, 11:42 PM||#3|
Join Date: May 2011
Philosophia Perennis Universale Imperium
Muhammad Salman Raschid
Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. He was
Visiting Scholar at Harvard University during
1981/1982. He is the author of Iqbal’s Concept of God
Religion, Vol. 13 No. 2(April 1983)
The following is an extract from the review of Nasr’s
book, Knowledge and the Sacred, published by the
Edinburgh University Press in 1981:
“Overall, Nasr’s book may be read as a very full
statement of a kind of ‘perennial philosophy’ (in fact
its pure milk - for those who can take so strong a
diet): that associated with the writings of Guénon,
Coomaraswamy and Schuon. The last-mentioned is the
focal figure to whom Nasr keeps returning throughout
his exposition - his works ‘crown the body of
contemporary traditional writings’ (p. 107) but they
have been ‘singularly neglected in academic circles’
….“The ‘perennial wisdom’ lies at the heart of every
religion. It is one of the chief components of idea of
tradition, a term which has a technical usage defined
by Nasr as ‘truths or principles of a divine origin
revealed or unveiled to mankind’ (p. 68). This eternal
wisdom is identified with the philosophia perennis of
the Western tradition by Nasr and was identified by
Coomaraswamy with the Hindu Sanatana dharma (pp.
“The formal set of ideas and principles underpinning
the tradition constitutes a body of sacred knowledge:
every revelation has this scientia sacra at its core
(p. 130). Such knowledge originates in a dual source -
revelation and ‘intellection’ (‘intellectual intuition
which involves the illumination of the heart and mind
of man’). Nasr identifies this sacred science with
metaphysics - defined as ‘the ultimate science of the
Real’ (pp. 132-133). This metaphysical science is
based on the idea of that the cosmos is ranged in a
gradation of levels of reality with ‘the absolute and
infinite Reality’ at the apex of hierarchy. The use of
the terms as ‘These Hypostases of the Real’ (p. 35)
and ‘constant effusions’ of ‘Being’ (p. 137) serves to
underline the thoroughly Neoplatonic origin of these
ideas. Its essence, which is also the goal of the path
of knowledge, it the attainment of ‘unitive knowledge
… the awareness of the nondual nature of the Real’ or,
in other words, the Divine Self-knowledge (p. 134;
this is pure pantheism).
Nasr makes many distinct claims about the nature and
scope of his scientia sacra. I propose now to examine
two such claims. First, consider the existence of a
plurality of religions. Nasr writes:
‘Scientia Sacra can be expounded in the language of
one as well as the other perspective. It can speak of
God or the Godhead, Allah, the Tao or even nirvana …’
….‘the traditional perspective’ which
‘alone is able to see each religion as a religion and
the religion, ‘absolute’ within its own universe,
while reconfirming that ultimately only the Absolute
(p. 281; my comment: this is empty word-play).
His basic position this:
‘Tradition studies religion from the point of view of
scientia sacra which distinguishes between the
Principle and manifestation, Essence and form,
Substance and accident, the inward and the outward.’
On such a flimsy basis Nasr boldly proclaims the
‘transcendent unity of religion’ for
‘The unity of religions is to be found first and
foremost in this Absolute which is at once Truth and
Reality and the origin of all revelations and of all
truth.’ (p. 293)
So that ‘below’ the level of ‘this Absolute’ religions
manifest themselves by means of their very different
specificities and particularities: doctrines, rites,
symbols, etc. There seem to be two serious
difficulties in this view. First, it does not deal at
all adequately with the absolute and exclusive
character of the truth-claims in many religions -
pre-eminently perhaps in the Semitic monotheistic
tradition. Secondly, it does not show how, as distinct
from merely asserting that, the distinctly individual
doctrines (e.g. God versus nirvana) become ‘united’ at
the level of ‘the Absolute’. More concretely, and most
specifically, I grew up as a Muslim in Theravada
Buddhist Burma and I have never managed to reconcile
the two religions. The Prophet Muhammad represents, in
my view, the completion and consummation of mankind’s
long religious story: but virtually everything he
affirms is categorically denied by the Buddha. The
Prophet’s message is deeply and intensely theocentric
whereas the Buddha, on the strictest reading of the
Pali canon by such scrupulous scholars as K. N.
Jayatileke, was an extremely radical atheist… In this
difficult situation the theory (for that is what it
is) advocated by Nasr is not helpful. The discrepancy
between the notions of God and nirvana need not
trouble me for, according to the scientia sacra (of
Nasr), at a certain level of reality they amount to or
‘become’ one and the Same Thing: variously called by
Nasr ‘that unique Truth’, ‘the one formless Essence’,
‘The Absolute’, ‘the absolute and infinite Reality’,
‘The Ultimate Reality’, ‘The Real’, ‘Absolute Reality’
etc. In this way the concrete, and deeply meaningful,
theological and buddhological formulations of distinct
traditions evaporate into a meaningless mist of
vacuous rhetoric. On such considerations, then, Nasr’s
‘theory’ turns out to be a pointless and rudimentary
verbal exercise. The root cause of the difficulty is
that he is trying to have it both ways: in
endeavouring to affirm two absolutes at once he
inevitably ends up in an incoherent position. There is
a deeper point at issue here: the Philosophy of
religion should not violate the facts of religion.
Nasr’s repeated declarations on the lines that he
respects ‘the spiritual genius and particularity of
each tradition’ (p. 69) are not borne out by his
procedure: his fundamental premise is that
‘The metaphysical knowledge of unity comprehends the
theological one in both a figurative and literal
sense, while the reverse is not true’ (p. 138)
This is a profoundly irreligious attitude; it should
be axiomatic that any kind of religious metaphysic
must be subsumed under the initial, and therefore
initiating, Message - be it contained in the
Christ-event, the Quran or the Buddha’s experience of
nirvana. Nasr’s ‘metaphysic’ is actually an
incongruous mixture of ideas derived from Semitic
monotheism, Plotinian emanationism and a theistic
interpretation of Vedanta, presumably based on
“As a Muslim, I am bound to say that Professor Seyyed
Hossein Nasr’s book cannot be read as a Muslim
statement since it does not represent the statement of
Islamic (i.e. Quranic) ideas. It is rather based upon
a confused mixture of what could be characterized as
‘Neoplatonized Semitic Theism with an admixture of
distorted Vedanta’. If this sounds like an
extraordinary incoherent formulation I submit that it
is a direct reflection of the basic incoherence in
Nasr’s whole case.”
|05-26-2012, 12:56 AM||#4|
Join Date: May 2011
some thoughts another site:
As regards the Perennialists, this is a less straightforward issue. On the one hand, people such as yourself have been genuinely and sincerely impressed by the personalities involved such as Martin Lings/Abu Bakar Sirajuddin. Also, it is undeniable that certain of their books have created a very favourable impression of Islam and Sufism in the eyes of Westerners (and also western-educated Muslims).
On the other hand, serious issues arise when comparing Perennialist positions with orthodox Muslim beliefs and accepting the Maryamiyyah as an orthodox Shadhili Tariqah. The basic belief of Perennialism is that Islam and the Beloved Prophet (the Sayyidul Mursileen) salla ALLAHu alayhi wassallam have no pre-eminence over other religions and prophets and to believe so shows that one has a limited (“exoteric”) mentality and is guilty of religious nationalism! In their writings, they do not distinguish between the status of the Quran and the scriptures of other religions and appear to consider them all to have the same authority. Equally probelamatic is the Perennialist position which denies Islam’s universality, considering it “providentially” confined to a particular part of the world and “mentality” (along with other and, for the Perennialists, equally valid religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc). This is contrasted with the message of Schuon and Guenon, which is universal (as stated by Lings). Lings has also stated that neither Guenon nor Schuon (Lings’ Shaikh) converted to Islam in the usual sense (i.e. they did not leave Christianity).
Based on the above, I think the writings of the Perennialists (and their understanding of Islam and orthodox Tasawwuf) need to be carefully scrutinised before arriving at any conclusions about their status as Islamic spiritual authorities.
he says also
At one time I was a “devotee” of the Perennialist books-almost to the extent I would not read anything else. However, I then realised the implications of Perennialism and its incompatability with pure Islam and Tasawwuf. Some examples are below.
“I cannot let it said that I “converted to Islam” for this way of presenting
things is completely false; whoever is aware of the essential unity of
traditions is therefore “unconvertible” to whatsoever, and he is even the
only one to be so; but one may “settle”, if one may say so, in such or
such a tradition depending upon circumstances, and above all for
reasons of an initiatory order.”
“I have had since my youth a particular interest in Advaita Vedanta…Since I could not find this method…in Europe…I had to look elsewhere…and since Islam de facto contains this method in Sufism, I finally decided to look for a Sufi master; the outer form did not matter to me.”
According to another Schuon follower, James Cutsinger, in the foreword to Schuon’s book “Prayer fashions man: Frithjof Schuon on the spiritual life”, Schuon knew that people “might falsely conclude that he had renounced Christianity and “converted” to Islam. In fact, his Sufi affiliation was simply a matter of vocation…it did not conflict with his remaining an adamant defender of traditional Christological doctrine and other essential Chritian truths…”
“If I were to be asked who is the greatest writer of our time, I would say Frithjof Schuon without hesitation”.
Although I have also heard people say that Martin Lings had a different position to Guenon and Schuon, I did not see anything he wrote in which he differed from his two predecessors in the fundamentals of Perennialism, i.e., all religions are identical in their innermost essence and differ only in their outer aspects, so it does not make a difference which religion one follows (a further implication of this was that all messengers/”Avatars” were to be considered equal and it was the sign of a limited mentality to exalt one over the other. Schuon rebuked Ibn Al Arabi for this “error” when he attributed to the Beloved Prophet Sayyiduna Muhammad Salla Allahu Alyhi wa Alihi wa Sallam a station above all other Prophets). Lings stated that it was one of the requirements of Schuon for his diciples (which included Lings himself as one of the staunchest and most loyal) that they love all religions equally.
He has openly defended the right of Christians to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity and constantly and consistently in his books potrayed Schuon as a great spiritual authority with a function not limited only to Islam.
Can the above sayings and beliefs be attributed to traditional Shuyukh or mureeds of the Shadhili school?
So, based on the above, on the one hand I rejected Perennialism, but on the other hand there were these beautifully written books by authors whom I had admired and who I believed had deepened my understanding of Islamic spirituality. A question then occurred to me: if the basis of everything these authors view religion through (including Islam) is Perennialism, and I fully reject Perennialism, then is the Islam they see and talk about in their books the same as the one I was born into and exemplified in the works and personalities of the great Sufis down the ages? And also, if I do not accept Perennialism, can I separate this from the “non-Perennialist” aspects in such books? Unfortunately, I could not find any easy answers to such questions. Wallahu a’lam.
I also read the Hamza Yusuf account but was puzzled by his reasoning. If Perennialism is to be rejected how can someone whose basis of being in, understanding, and explaining Islam is the same Perennialism be portrayed as some kind of Wali? While not advocating “takfeer” of someone holding such clearly rejected beliefs, I also think we should not go to the opposite extreme otherwise you are lending credence to the very doctrine you at the same time claim to be rejecting. Perhaps Hamzah Yusuf and Ali Jifri should have have taken the opportunity to give sound counsel/naseeha to Lings to correct his beliefs and understanding of Islam and Sufism.
|05-26-2012, 01:25 AM||#5|
Join Date: May 2011
With all my respect for Shaykh Abdal Hakeem, but Schuon will not give you a
better understanding of theology but it will add confusion to confusion.
Much of what Schuon has to say about tradition, metaphysics, caste, race and
primordial man is taken from nineteenth century German philosophy and the
Symbolic movement of the twenties and thirties in which he grew up. The
symbolist movement, which influenced his father, had a romantic attachment
to the esoteric and the primordial man. The symbolists were scavengers of
India, China, Islam and other non Western cultures and developed an eclectic
philosophy which was a mish mash of all cultures and religions. Schuon
thinking is based on Gnosticism, Occultism, the Hermetic corpus,
Pythagoreanism, neo-Platonism, the Hindu believe in reincarnation, karma,
the cyclic time, the Kabbala and some religious trappings of Christianity.
Schuon ushered this lethal brew into Islam and Sufism with predictable
consequences. His critique of Kant, is not even a shadow to the new grounds
achieved by phenomenology and later by Heidegger. He simply replaced
rational metaphysics for occultist methaphysics -Heidegger will say is the
same-. He was an impostor, which used cultist tricks and devices and his
self-given Shaykhdom (which he acquired in a dream) to manipulate and
control his own people. Even Guenon (who, unlike Schuon, at least believed
you have to pray and fast) had to denounce him as an impostor and wrote:
“Cela ne m'étonne guère, car, au point de vue technique, l'ignorance de tous
ces gens, à commencer par F.S. [Frithjof Schuon] lui-même, est véritablement
(I am not surprised, for, from a technical viewpoint, the ignorance off all
these people, to start with F.S. [Frithjof Schuon] himself, is truly
Having said this, Schuon was a great influence to many gullible individuals
of a generation now in their fifties and sixties who were in search for
knowledge and to most of the modern perennialists particularly: Seyyed
Hossein Nasser and Marting Lings. The latest wrote:
“Schuon is unsurpassed and I would add unequalled, as a writer on
comparative religion” and “If I were asked who is the greatest writer of our
time, I would say Frithjof Schuon without hesitation”.
The problem, Tazkiyya, is that this people roam in our Muslim arenas as if
they are the true picture of Islam. They mingle with us while in fact they
have different beliefs. As an example, I was surprised that somebody as
educated as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, is going to appear next weekend with Dr
Lings (Abu Bakr Sirajuddin) to speak about Islam in the “The Shakespeare and
Islam Lecture Series” in the Globe in London. This is a man who not only is
a schuonian perennialist but has written:
“The law of religion is for a particular place and period, as a torch given
to man to guide him on a moonless nigh…But the true man has no need for this
“Our aim has been to express in the language of Sufism some of the universal
truths that lie at the heart of all religions”
“the universal aspect of all religion which is above all particular
|05-26-2012, 09:49 PM||#7|
Join Date: May 2011
Discussions between Perennialist and non-Perennialist Muslims typically revolve around the idea of salvific exclusivity: whether Islam is the only acceptable way to Allah in this day and age. I do wish to discuss that, but my heart is pulling me in another direction.
Yesterday, I asked Sidi Isa:
“Do you agree with Schuon's statements:
‘. . .is an imitation of the Prophet founded on the religious illusion that he is intrinsically better than all the other Prophets, including Jesus . . .’
and his comment on al-Shaykh al-Akbar's statement the the maqam of mahbubiya is exclusively for the Rasul (salla Allah 'alayhi was sallam):
‘. . .The extenuating circumstance for this abrupt and unintelligible denominationalism is the fact that for each religion the Prophet who founded it is the sole personification of the total, not the partial, Logos. . .’”
In his response, Isa remarked that he did in fact agree with Schuon on these points. Oddly, this comment of Isa’s was removed and replaced, which is why there are two posts by me, back-to-back, even though I was addressing him.
I then said:
“I for one, believe that the Messenger of Allah--salla Allah 'alayhi wa sallam--who is the al-Insan al-Kamil and whose din is the Religio Perennis, is in fact intrinsically [dhatiyan] superior to the other Anbiya' and Rusul. According to the Perennialists, am I wrong?”
To which he replied:
In saying that the Prophet is superior to all other Prophets and Messengers, you are incorrect in one respect and correct in another respect.
When I asked him to explain how I am incorrect in one respect, he replied:
Speaking from the standpoint of the religio perennis, you are correct inasmuch as you are a Muslim for whom the Prophet Muhammad, 'alayhi's-salatu wa's-salam, is the center of your religious 'cosmos'. It is the specific revelation which was delivered through him that is your the nourishing substance of your spiritual life; that is to say that you are concretely affected by the Qur'an and the salat more than you are by Christ or the practice of sitting zazen. In this sense what you have said is correct even for a Muslim perennialist. In other words, it is theologically correct for a Muslim. Clearly, it would not be theologically correct for a Christian.
Following from this, it is also devotionally correct, in the sense that, although one is aware that everyone has a mother who, for them, is uniquely 'Mother', yet it is natural to feel a special love and kinship for one's own mother and even consider her 'the best'.
Metaphysically speaking, all the Prophets and Messengers are one in their essence or prophetic substance, thus a distinction is meaningless here. It would be comparable to claiming that one's own mother had more the quality of 'motherhood' than any other mother. So, metaphysically what you have said is incorrect, or rather it is not relevant to the plane of metaphysical principles.
Although I have read a few books of Schuon, I must be frank: I was taken aback to see some of his comments on the Prophet Muhammad—salla Allah ‘alayhi was sallam. Where do I even begin?
One of the most important principles of Metaphysics that is often overlooked is that there is in fact one Metaphysic. In other words, the principles that govern the orders of being are a single unified matrix. This is because Being Itself is One. That said, this Metaphysic has a hierarchy, a center, a quintessence, and a perfection in so far as it in the realm of relativity.
What we have in al-Mustafa—salla Allah ‘alayhi wa sallam—is the archetypal archetype and the axis of all orders.
Now it is one thing for someone to claim that the axis not is him and that it is this or that being, but it is another matter entirely to say that there can be no such universal axis; that there is nothing more that the relative centers or multiple domains.
All of us—both Perennialists and non-Perennialist Muslims—know and acknowledge that there are Messengers and Prophets who were the poles of salvation and fountains of wisdom to their respective communities. But, how does it escape any discerning mind that humanity is itself a community which, as a collective, also has a pole and fountainhead? How does one not see that the entire creation is as such a community which needs a center? Are the Messengers followers of none? Have they no leader? Are they not a community? Are religions not a collective which has a perfection? What else is the “religio perennis” Perennialists covet? There must be a sky beyond which there is no sky, and a particle that does not divide.
Sayyiduna Muhammad—salla Allah ‘alayhi was sallam—is the Sayyid al-Kawnayn wa al-thaqalayn, the first Prophet created, the last one sent, the first one resurrected, the possessor of the major intercession, the Sayyid of the Anbiya and Rusul, the one whose name is written upon the legs of the Throne and the leaves of Paradise, the reason for this world being created, etc. These are not a mere collection of theological positions that can somehow be discounted or “explained away” by a metaphysic that, quite frankly, renders them all “relative.”
One of the principal differences between the Perennialists and us is that, while the both of us may affirm these aforementioned points, our belief in them is not followed by a distant echo of “well . . . not really.”
What is disconcerting is that those who agree with Schuon on this seem to declare for themselves a unique vantage point from which they presume to observe the various universes at play, while they observe on a plateau above.
Schuon said (as mentioned elsewhere on this thread):
“. . .is an imitation of the Prophet founded on the religious illusion that he is intrinsically better than all the other Prophets, including Jesus, and there is another imitation of the Prophet founded on the prophetic quality in itself, that is on the perfection of the Logos become man . . .”
Dear Shuayb, Isa, and Kareem, I pray to Allah that you do not really believe this, that the belief in the Prophet’s superiority—salla Allah ‘alayhi wa sallam—is a religious illusion. If we follow Schuon’s statement to its logical conclusion we will have the following scenarios:
• Imam al-Busayri says in the Burda: “Munzahun ‘an sharikin fi mahasinihi” [exalted above have any partner in his beauties], and the Perennialist must say: “Well, actually that is not correct.”
• The Messenger of Allah—salla Allah ‘alayhi wa sallam—says: “I am the Sayyid of the Children of Adam” and the Perennialist says (with the mute tongue of "metaphysics"), “Well, actually he is not.”
• Imam al-Busayri said in al-Hamziya: “laka min dhat al-'ulum min 'alam al-ghayb wa minha li Adam al-asma'u” [For you are the areas of knowledge from the unseen realm, and for Adam are the names thereof], and the Perennialist says, “Well that is correct in your spiritual cosmos, but not correct in the Christian spiritual cosmos.”
And I could keep going on and on with this.
Of all places, I never imagined that I would read “religious relativism” from Schuon, who has a well-known and scathing attack on relativism. He said:
“And in the same way, if we are assured that the Prophet is superior to the other Messengers—including Christ, of course—and that he is so in an absolute fashion; that the love offered God by the others and therefore also by Jesus was less perfect than that of Muhammad; and that the other Messenger—including Christ as always—were not raised to the degree of “friend” of God as the Prophet was, Abraham being so only to a lesser degree: then we must object that at the level of the founders of religions such evaluations are devoid of meaning and only serve to prove the ignorance and fanaticism of those who conceive them. Although in itself the symbolism of the superiority of a given Messenger within his own religion is “subjectively” legitimate—since each religion sees in its founder the total Logos—the arguments used are nonetheless inadmissible from any point of view; already unfortunate when the come from the pen of a theologian, they are all the more so coming from an esoterist.”
(Christianity and Islam: Perspectives on Esoteric Ecumenism: World Wisdom, p. 102)
The takeaway from Schuon’s statement is that any Muslim expression of the Supreme rank of the Messenger of Allah—salla Allah ‘alayhi was sallam—is nothing more than “subjective” and thus, ultimately relative. This can also perhaps explain how all of the Qur’anic verses and hadith reports that support Islam’s salvific exclusivity are explained away and “made relative and subjective” by the Perennialists.
Now, Sidi Kareem, you said:
The "newness" belongs to the expression, not to the truth. An example is the metaphysical doctrine of Ibn 'Arabi which came to be known as wahdat al-wujud. When Ibn 'Arabi's works started to spread, they were met with fierce resistance, even from Sufis and not just a few of them; in fact, even today not all Sufis accept his ideas, particular in the East. Some oppose Ibn 'Arabi and some see such metaphysical speculation as an intellectual dispersion and a distraction from the dhikr and praise of the Prophet.
This is not entirely correct. The starting point of al-Shaykh al-Akbar’s metaphysics was the al-Haqiqa al-Muhammadiya and the Revelation. That which pertained to his Kashf—and due to which, was “subjective” as it was not revelation as such—was not always accepted. Some of Ibn ‘Arabi’s utterances were considered interpolations, and others were just called incorrect. A wonderful example of this is found in Imam al-Sha’ranis al-Kibrit al-Ahmar, where he distilled many of the esoteric sciences and observations of Ibn ‘Arabi. In more than one instance he cites Ibn ‘Arabi’s view and says: “Fihi nazar [that is questionable],” which, if you are familiar with scholarly writings in Arabic, indicates that he doesn’t agree.
Most Sufi Shaykhs (judging from their written or recorded positions or what is reported from them) today hold al-Shaykh al-Akbar in the highest esteem, and only warn or prohibit their murids from reading his works because of the depth and profundity therein, and the risk of misunderstanding his statements and going astray. In fact, one of the notables of the Deoband orientation, Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi, has a book on him, I believe (and Deobandis here can correct me on this), and held him in the highest regard as an ‘arif mutahaqiq.
The idea of the transcendent unity of religions is like the belief in wahdat al-wujud, i.e. it is not a matter of aqidah but a matter of spiritual kashf, intellectual intuition, or what have you.
The comparison between the Transcendent Unity of Religions and wahdat al-wujud is faulty. The latter has orthodoxy and Sunnism as its starting point, and it does not depart from it in reality. The idea of the Transcendent Unity of Religions on the other had, posits that there are multiple orthodoxies; thus, according to the Perennialists, Sunnism, Shiism, Isma’ilism, and even Salafism are orthodoxies, as technically speaking, there are grades of relative truth.
This, I am afraid, is where we part ways. Muslims do not view the extant religions as all equal, with Islam taking is fair place among them. We believe that is the religio perennis, abrogating all of the other faiths—this is something Muslims affirm, without the distant echo of “but on the metaphysical plain, not really.”
The ma’rifa and shuhud of the saints are the highest reaches attained by non-Prophets and they do not declare the preeminent status of the Messenger of Allah above all creation with the disclaimer that it is only in their “relative” and “subjective” spiritual cosmos.
Religions are like lamps of colored glass; now a lamp illuminates the dark because it is luminous and not because it is red or blue or green. On the one hand the color transmits the light, but on the other hand it falsifies it; if it is true that without a given colored lamp one would see nothing, it is just as true that visibility cannot be identified with any one color. This is what every esoterism ought to be aware of by definition, at least in principle and to the extent permitted by its knowledge of facts.
(Christianity and Islam: Perspectives on Esoteric Ecumenism: World Wisdom, p. 98)
Colored lamps that falsify the light? Did the Prophets who brought the revealed religions of the past “falsify” the light? Have they ever claimed to be The Absolute Light?
Salla Allah ‘alayka ya Nur!
|05-26-2012, 09:55 PM||#8|
Join Date: May 2011
As regards the Faivre/Hanegraaf quote, regardless of whatever is assumed about their personal philosophical premises, I think their conclusion is spot on as regards the Perennialists. The Perennialist views his own perspective as THE perspective compared to which all other "exoteric" perspectives (e.g. Islam and other "orthodox" religions) are necessarily "lesser" or "limited". (Incidentally, A Faivre's being, in your words, an "empiricist", was certainly no impediment for another Perennialist, the Christian James Cutsinger, as he asked Faivre to write the Foreword to a book on Schuon's writings).
In fact, the Perennialist does not consider his views as one perspective among others; rather, in his eyes, it simply corresponds to "the nature of things" (as the Perennialists are wont to say) similar to the sun rising from the East and setting in the West. Faced with such a phenomenon, the only choice for a person "with eyes to see" is acceptance. Rejection of Perennialism, in this context, is seen by the Perennialists as a limitation of vision and understanding.
As regards Islam, the Perennialist denies its universality as a religion for all of mankind (and by extension denies the universal role of the Beloved Prophet (May ALLAH shower him with His choicest blessings!) - the "Mercy for the Worlds") and considers Islam as appropriate only for a people with certain mentality and living in a certain territory. For other people with different mentalities/dispositions in different parts of the world, other "orthodox" religions are more appropriate and equally valid as paths to salvation.
The Perennialist therefore accords current religions such as Christanity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism at least the same status as Islam (I say "at least" because Schuon considered Hinduism, being the "oldest" religion, to have certain advantages over other religions in terms of the supposed metaphysical directness of its doctrines; it should then come as no surprise that Schuon, initially, wanted to become a Hindu and only "settled" for Islam because he could not, for various reasons, convert to his first choice Hinduism).
Similarly, the Perennialist accords personalities such as Rama, Krishna, and the White Buffalo Cow Woman of the Red Indians the same status as the Seal of the Prophets (May ALLAH shower him with His choicest blessings!) - all supposedly being particular manifestations of the Universal Logos; and books such as the Vedas and the Bible are accorded the same status as the Quran - all being "Scripture".
Interestingly, Perennialists do not compare the historical fact of the existence of the Prophet of Islam (May ALLAH shower him with His choicest blessings!), the reliability of his hadith which we have access to today, and the absolute certainty of the text of the Quran being the unaltered word of ALLAH SubhanaHU wa Ta'aala with what is the situation with other supposed "Avatars", their sayings and holy books. They simply assume that all previous messengers/’sages”, together with the sayings, religions and scriptures attributed to them- in whatever form they exist in at the present time-are all equally authentic and reliable, of the same status and saying essentially the same thing.
Now, for a Muslim faced with such Perennialist claims, the basic question to ask (assuming he takes such claims seriously in the first place, which he should not be blamed for if he doesn't) is what is the authority for these claims? The answer is pretty straightforward. Essentially, for the Perennialist (at least of the Martin Lings and SH Nasr variety), the ultimate authority lies in the assertions of Frithjof Schuon, who Muslims are also asked to accept as an Islamic spiritual authority because he claimed to be a Shadhili Sufi Shaikh.
However, such claims of Schuon's Islamic authority are put into serious doubt when we learn things like although Schuon entered Islam, he actually did not leave his previous religion (Christianity) and continued to love it, to defend its traditional doctrines, to assert that it was a "historical fact" that Jesus had a divine nature, that Jesus was God and through him it was possible to achieve deification!!! He also insisted that his starting point-as the Shaykh of a supposedly Islamic Tariqah- was the doctrine of the Advaita Vedanta (a belief of a school of Hinduism).
Muslims obviously do not require a fatwa to show that such beliefs have nothing to do with Islam. Also, it goes without saying that a Muslim cannot accept a person holding such beliefs (or any of his followers who hold similar beliefs) as being an Islamic authority whose arguments can have a persuasive, binding or decisive nature as to the true beliefs and doctrines of Islam and Tasawwuf. Of course, if one rejects-on Islamic grounds-the authority of Schuon, one also has no compulsion of accepting or applying to Islam Schuonic/Perennialist metaphysical speculations or the definitions of "exoteric", "esoteric", "religio perennis", etc.
Nevertheless, someone may not care for whether or not Schuon's views have any Islamic sanction, and continue to take an interest in his writings (and those of the Perennialist school), as one may have a similar interest in other spiritual/philosophical writings of figures such as Plato, Plotinus, Shankara, Meister Eckhart, etc. All such writers made various metaphysical/philosophical claims and statements; however, they do not concern us or have any authority for us as regards our beliefs and practices as Muslims because obviously no extra-Islamic authority can in any way equal, much less overrule, the authority and status of the Prophet (May ALLAH shower him with His choicest blessings!), the Guidance vouchsafed to him by ALLAH subhanauHU wa Ta'aala, the Prophet's blessed family, the Sahaba, the Awliya and the true Imams -the "best community raised for mankind" .
Considering the nature of Perennialist beliefs, however, one question does arise, which is: in what context, and for what purpose, are they being justified and discussed on a forum such as this?
|05-26-2012, 10:03 PM||#9|
Join Date: May 2011
As I tried to explain in my previous post, for Perennialism’s claims to be taken seriously within Islam, the Islamic credentials of Schuon have first to be established. Schuon’s biographer and disciple P Aymard has confirmed, based on Schuon’s own writings and life, that Schuon was an “outsider” to Islam. Another disciple, R Fabbri, again based on Schuon’s own writings and life, concluded that Schuon’s “connection” to Islam was “not essential”. Martin Lings, one of Schuon’s earliest and foremost disciples, reverently informs us that Mr. Schuon had apparently discovered a way to “enter” Islam without leaving Christianity. I have previously pointed out that Schuon believed in, defended, and propagated the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity at the same time as appearing/claiming to be a “Muslim”. Schuon himself freely and proudly proclaimed that his own “aqeedah” and that of his “Tariqah Maryamiyyah” was the Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism. He cited, as the decisive sign that he was chosen by God, seeing visions of the naked Virgin Mary, who he then proceeded to represent in dozens of paintings (“icons”)-sometimes with himself also present, likewise in his “birthday suit”. Such “icons” were contemplated by the “fuqara” to absorb the “barakah” of Shaykh Schuon. He apparently married the already married wife of a disciple in a “vertical” marriage. He also stated that Satan had largely succeeded in taking over Islam from within. All of these beliefs and actions of Schuon were justified by… the Perennialism of Schuon, - how convenient!
In view of the above, to compare the Perennialist school of Schuon, who by his own statements and actions clearly struggled to understand-to put it mildly- even the basic beliefs and requirements of being a Muslim, to compare such an individual to a personality such as the great Imam Malik (r.a) and his eponymous madhab-quite apart from the question of proper adab- involves such a momentous a leap of faith and imagination, which, I at least, do not have the strength or daring to attempt!
Admittedly, what does puzzle me is the repeated insistence by certain Perennialists for Muslims to accept Schuon/Perennialism within Islam while at the same time claiming that his personality and message are too great and universal to remain confined within the “limitations” of Islam. If such is indeed the case, the obvious question is: why are they so desperate to secure Islamic acceptance in the first place?
To summarise, while I am aware that some (i.e. Schuon himself and his own disciples) have variously labeled Schuon as an Avatar, the Qutb of his time, a jivanmukta, the Cosmic Intellect, a saint of the first magnitude, the Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy, the Seal of the Sages, and so on, the fact remains that Schuon has absolutely no standing as an authority, spiritual or otherwise, within Islam. And that is what matters for Muslims. Therefore, his speculations on notions such as the supposed “Transcendent Unity of Religions”, the role and status of the “Intellect”, Plato’s theory of forms applied to religions, etc., however interesting and amazing some may find them, do not in themselves qualify Schuon as an Islamic authority and no Muslim is under the obligation to subject the Revelation of Islam to such speculations any more than he is obliged to subject and interpret Islam according to the opinions of Karl Marx or the Pope.
As regards the Faivre/Hanegraaf quote, I still think it captures the Perennialist attitude as exemplified in the predictable way in which you dismissed the fatwa of the Ulema rejecting Perennialism, who you assumed did not “understand” Perennialism (because, of course, no one who understands Perennialism could possibly reject it). I am also perfectly aware that a strict “empiricist” by definition would not accept the “metaphysical” premises of Islam any more than those of Perennialism. However, the point is that, unlike you, I do not equate the Revelation of Islam with the philosophical speculations of the Perennialists, where rejection of one implies the rejection of the other.
The rest of your post contains the usual arguments and justifications based on the Perennialist assumptions of Schuon. I appreciate the trouble and length you have gone to explain the Perennialist position, but I had already gleaned as much from what I have read myself from Schuon’s writings and those of his followers. So apologies for not providing a long list of objections, which it seems that you were looking forward to!
|05-26-2012, 10:11 PM||#10|
Join Date: May 2011
Al-Qaadi ‘Ayyaad said: hence we regard as a kaafir everyone who follows a religion other than the religion of the Muslims, or who agrees with them, or who has doubts, or who says that their way is correct, even if he appears to be a Muslim and believes in Islam and that every other way is false, he is a kaafir
(Al-Shifaa’ bi Ta’reef Huqooq al-Mustafaa, 2/1071)
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