May 6, 2009

Al Ghazali view childreen

Amongst the many Muslim scholars who wrote on the education of children, are Ibn Sina, Ibn Khaldun and Al-Ghazali. Here focus is placed on the latter.

Al-Ghazali, known in Europe as Algazel, is one of the most illustrious Muslim scholars, who wrote many works, and became renowned for his learning. In his thirties, he became the principal teacher at Madrasah Nizamiyyah of Baghdad, the most renowned institution of learning in eastern Islam (Cordova in the West). His ideas on education dominated Islamic educational thought for centuries after his death. Here, the focus is how he saw the education of the child and the role of the master. The sources for this brief account, other than the original source itself, are C. Bouamrane-L. Gardet; A. Tritton, and A. Tibawi.

According to Al-Ghazali, "knowledge exists potentially in the human soul like the seed in the soil; by learning the potential becomes actual."

The child, Al-Ghazali also wrote, "is a trust (placed by God) in the hands of his parents, and his innocent heart is a precious element capable of taking impressions".

If the parents, and later the teachers, brought him up in righteousness he would live happily in this world and the next and they would be rewarded by God for their good deed. If they neglected the child’s upbringing and education he would lead a life of unhappiness in both worlds and they would bear the burden of the sin of neglect.

One of the elements Al-Ghazali insists upon is that a child should be taught the words of the Creed in his earliest days and be taught the meaning gradually as he grew older; corresponding to the three stages of memorising, understanding and conviction.

The way the child relates to the world at large occupies a large concern in Al-Ghazali’s mind. In concert with Ibn Al-Hajj, he stresses amongst others that a child must not boast about his father’s wealth, and must be polite and attentive to all. He should be taught not to love money for love of it is a deadly poison. He must not spit nor clean his nose in public. He must learn to respect and obey his parents, teachers and elders. As he grows older, he must observe the rules of cleanliness, fast a few days in Ramadhan, avoid the wearing of silk, gold and silver, learn the prescriptions of the scared law, fear thieving, wealth from unclean sources, lying, treachery, vice and violent language. The pupil must not be excessively proud, or jealous. He should not tell off others. He must avoid the company of the great of this world, or to receive gifts from them. He must act towards God as he would wish his servant acted towards him. He should treat every human as he would like to be treated himself.

The perspective of Al-Ghazali is centered upon personal effort in the search for truth; and this presupposes, he insists, a received education and the direction of a master. Education (tarbiya), Al-Ghazali states in Ayyuha l-walad is like "the labour of the farmer, who uproots the weeds, trims wheat so as it grows better and gives a better harvest." Every man needs a teacher to guide him in the right direction. To try and do without leads to worst illusions. In Ayyuha l-walad the pupil’s outward respect for his teacher is evidence of esteem for such in one's heart.

He who undertakes the instructions of the young, points Al-Ghazali, "undertakes great responsibility". He must therefore be as tender to his pupils as if they were his own children. He must correct moral lapses through hinting… above all he himself must set an example so that his action accords with his precepts. The teacher should never criticise the subject taught by another. He must adapt his teaching to the pupil's capacity and ability, and not to overburden the pupil's capacity, nor give him fright. He must respect the less gifted pupil, who might if lost, leave safe foundations for standards he would never reach. And after school, Al-Ghazali insists, the pupil must be allowed to have recreation. To prevent play and insist on continuous study leads to dullness in the heart, diminution in intelligence and unhappiness. Even more on this matter, in ‘Ihya ulum al-din’, the teacher, Al-Ghazali holds, carries eight duties. First and foremost he is a father for his pupils. He must teach for the sake of God. He would advise the student with prudence, fight the excessive urge to learn too quickly, and to overtake his peers. He would reprimand with moderation, in private, discreetly, not in public. To blame too much is to make the pupil too stubborn in his way of seeing and doing things. And one other duty of the teacher is to make sure that what he teaches he pursues in his life, and that his own acts do not contradict what he is trying to inculcate.

Mankind Of Islam

"ISLAM" is derived from the Arabic root salaama means peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His Law.

Islam (Submit to will of God) was the religion preached and practiced by all Prophets of God .Prophet Adam , Prophet Noah , Prophet Abraham ,Prophet Moses ,Prophet Jesus and Prophet Mohammed were preached and practiced the religion of Islam only. (May Peace of God be upon all Prophets and Messengers of God).The Meaning of Islam: Everything and every phenomenon in the world which we are able to understand , other than mankind is administered totally by God-made laws, they are obedient to God and submissive to His laws, i.e. they are in the state of Islam . Man possesses the quality of intelligence and choice, thus he is invited to submit to the good will of God and obey His law , i.e. become a Muslim . Submission to the good will of God, together with obedience to His beneficial law , i.e. becoming a Muslim, is the best safeguard for man's peace and harmony.

Islam dates back to the age of Adam and its message has been conveyed to man by God's Prophets and Messengers including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam's message has been restored and enforced in the last stage of the religious evolution by God's last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad.

The word ALLAH in the Arabic language means God, or more accurately The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. The word Allah to mean God is also used by Arabic speaking Jews and Christians.

Apr 28, 2009

Sufism: The Mystic Tradition of Islam

For those who have heard of the Sufis, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the whirling dervishes in their camel-hair hats and their white twirling skirts. Others recognize that it has something to do with Islam and perhaps that the gyration has some sort of spiritual significance, but little more is known than that. Most would probably be surprised to learn that not all Sufis are whirling dervishes. In fact, the thing that most characterizes Sufis, whirling or otherwise, is the path of devotion they take toward union with the Divine; in short, Sufis constitute the “mystical core of Islam” (Loutfy 144).

This orthodox Muslim faith is characterized by the Five Pillars, which include the confession of faith (“There is no God but Allah,[1] and Muhammad is his prophet”), prayer, charity, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. As with all Muslims, most Sufis embrace these tenets, but venture beyond them to esoteric practices as well (Loutfy 145), sometimes subtly reinterpreting them in the process. Put another way, Islam may be (though does not have to be) viewed as a primarily external path of devotion to Allah, whereas virtually all forms of mysticism, including Sufism, are overtly internal in their focus, desiring nothing short of complete union with God: God and the soul united as one. Sufism, then, is not content to follow the external path of devotion to Allah, but desires spiritual union with him in a life centered primarily inward such that the invisible is always brought to bear upon the visible.

Historically, Sufism grew as a corrective both to the excessive legalism emphasized by the mullahs (Muslim clerics) on the one hand and the increasing decadence of the Muslim empire on the other; it also formed a middle ground between those parts of the Qu’ran that characterize Allah as an omnipotent ruler and judge and those that describe him as being nearer to humanity than breath, desirous of living within the human heart (Zeidman). What is more, it also incorporated elements it borrowed from the traditions of its conquered peoples; Zeidman includes “Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, Hellenistic, Zoroastrian and Hindu” in his list of contributors. This syncretism could easily explain why critics tend to ridicule Sufism as not authentically Islamic, though its core is nevertheless firmly rooted in the tradition beginning with the Prophet Muhammad and the teachings attributed to his name.

Whatever its history, the path of the Sufi is one that involves self-discipline and self-mastery: a day-by-day immersion in the Absolute and an increasing awareness of the self. Twelfth-century Sufi philosopher Al-Ghazzali (1058–1111) characterizes this approach to life with an extended metaphor: a child cannot ever fully grasp what it means to be a full-grown adult, a common man cannot conceive of the attainments of a great scholar, and the great scholar has no way of understanding the consciousness of a fully enlightened Sufi (Loutfy 145). In time, of course, each could become the other, but while each remains in the lower state, understanding is not possible. And even within Sufism, there are different levels of attainment, always leaving open the temptation of spiritual pride, perhaps one of the greatest downfalls of an overtly mystical emphasis.

Sufis come in many varieties and we have said that not all of them are of the spinning sort. For example, in the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan—bordered by China and Afghanistan and formerly a part of the Soviet Union until 1991—two primary Sufi orders coexist, namely the Naqshbandiyya and the Qadiriyya (Arabov 345). The Naqshbandiyya, the newer, larger, and more prominent order, do not perform the public invocations to God known variously as dhikr or zkir (of which the twirling is often a highly visible part), instead performing the silent version known as zikr khafi (Arabov 345; “Zikr”). The high-profile sheihk (or spiritual guide) Ishan[2] Zubaydulla believes that the silent zkir is superior because it does not necessitate a teacher and can be performed anywhere without accessories as an act of spiritual devotion (Arabov 345, 347). The Qadiriyya, however, practice the zikr jali (or “loud zikr”) with its dancing and chanting; according to a young devotee who was interviewed, they see the public manifestation as a means of both drawing followers and giving the common people a spiritual focus to help them purify their hearts and minds (Arabov 345).

Spinning Sufis in general, at least outside of Tajikista, are expressly part of a tradition in which the love of the Divine predominates. Rabi’a al-Adawiya (d.801) was a woman from the city of Basra in Iraq who was motivated neither by heavenly reward nor fear of hell but rather by sheer devotion to God himself. It was she who introduced the theme of Divine Love into the Sufi order and it soon became a dominant feature of Sufism (Zeidman). Not surprisingly, mystical poetry began to circulate in which the central motif extolled the virtues of Divine Love. The Sufi poet and philosopher Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207–1273) in particular was a venerated master—he was even named “Mawlana” meaning “our Lord or Teacher” (Zeidman)—and his Mathnawi-i-Maanwi (“Couplets of Inner Meaning”) with its over 20,000 rhyming lines has sometimes been described as “The Qu’ran in Persian Tongue,” its blend of everyday elements and depth of spiritual insight an inspiration to countless devotees (Loutfy 145). However, what Rumi is perhaps best known for is establishing the Mevlevi Order of the Sufis, better known as the Whirling Dervishes: we have now arrived at the most familiar aspect of Sufism to the curious Westerner.

To such a one, the etymology of the word “dervish” might come as a surprise. “Dervish” derives from Turkish derviş, itself a derivation of Persian darvīš meaning “poor, mendicant” and often encompassing connotations of a wanderer as well. At least figuratively, the whirling dervishes then are whirling paupers whose rising skirts represent the shedding of sins: spiritual pilgrims with no extra baggage whose canopy is the stars and whose panoply stretches as far as the green grass and hot desert sands. In fact, poverty actually plays a significant part in Sufi spirituality, for a bit like St. Francis of Assisi to Christianity, al-Adawiya and Rumi extolled the virtues of poverty in Sufism, placing an emphasis not only on material poverty but also on its spiritual counterpart until nothing is left but God: until nothing is left but the joyful response of a heart free and overflowing with Divine Love. Nothing weighs such a heart down, having escaped its earthly fetters. And it so happens, spinning was one of the spontaneous overflows of love and gratitude that Rami experienced when contemplating his Creator; his followers developed this display into a ceremonial feat of song and dance known as sama, or “listening,” in which the mental faculties are finely focused, a state of heightened receptivity is entered into, and ultimately wajd (“finding”) is experienced: a finding and then merging with God, if only for a time (LaMothe 64).

When the dervishes enter the sacred space, they are wearing black outer robes signifying the “tomb of the ego”; their “tall camel-hair hat . . . the tombstone” (Goddard H01). While performances may differ, often a sole ney, or flute, accompanies the dance, suggestive of the very soul of the universe (ibid.). Three times the dervishes circle counterclockwise—the direction pilgrims encircle the Kaaba and the planets orbit the sun—and then receive a blessing and a kiss from the shaykh or teacher (Lamothe 64; Safieddine). Rotations complete, they cast aside their black cloaks—the nafs or ego to which they must die—to reveal the purity of white floor-length robes beneath that began to swell into graceful bells as first the right foot steps across the left and then the left circles to meet the right, right, then left, right, then left, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out (Lamothe 64). Their right hand is open, palm upward; their left hand is open, palm downward: “From God we receive,” explained guide Nurretin Bayral of the upturned hand, “to humankind we give” of the other: “we keep nothing for ourselves” (Goddard H01).

Hicham Safieddine puts a particularly compelling frame around this scene when he talks to the forty-seven-year-old dervish Hani Mohammad Ameen, a student of the art for almost forty years. In some ways Ameen is not the typical dervish: for nearly the past two decades of his career, he has toured with a troupe in Egypt whose purpose is to preserve what is fast becoming a dying tradition, far too often deemed heretical by fundamentalist Islam, sharing it with the outside world as well as those who still proudly preserve the name Sufi. Assembled in 1988 by the Egyptian ministry of culture, Al-Tannura, as the troupe is called, is comprised of dervishes whose only formal training has been that of the cultural heritage conferred on them by their fathers who taught them the art of the dance. Their performances are free and are one of the most popular attractions in Cairo; they have also traveled to over thirty countries including Canada, sharing their art and spirituality with the world. The Al-Tannura wear hand-sewn variegated skirts that integrate all the colors of the various orders of the dervishes, representative of the different centers of spiritual consciousness (Safieddine).

Ameen, alone, is the sun at the center, his junior associates the planets orbiting this rotating sphere. “When I spin,” says Ameen, “I am in a completely different state of mind, far away from this world, as if I am swimming in the sky. And the more I spin, the lighter I become, just like when you spin a ball in your hand and you feel its weight is diminishing” (ibid.). Ameen has gone far beyond the usual and performs a spiritual showstopper, in which he unties his skirt and raises it by degrees, representative of the shedding of his sins. Ameen—now in a trance-state, the smile of serenity on his face, bare feet mesmeric in syncopated rhythm, one foot keeping time, then the other, then the one, the skirt now a floating sun disk above his head, twirling, twirling—folds the skirt and gives it a gentle toss to one of the musicians, never stopping until his forty minutes alone with his fellows and God is finished. But he does not get dizzy, even when he twirled for a full hour and a half in India in the mid part of 1995. “When you start spinning at a young age, you actually get dizzy and fall off repeatedly, sometimes even throwing up. But within a year or so, you begin to feel your brain and eyes becoming somewhat unaffected by the movement of the rest of your body, and that is when you know you have begun to master the spin” (Safieddine). For Ameen, the dance not only connects him to God for whom his soul was created, but sends a powerful message of love and tolerance all too often unheard in the Islamic world.

In sum, Sufism has many faces for many are the creations of Allah who alone is one. Yet in the hearts and minds of countless persons, the whirling dervishes are the most vivid and metaphoric embodiment of the cosmic dance between humanity and its Creator: a sama centered in love and self-surrender in which the soul, like the skirt in which it is clothed, begins to float free, rising higher and higher, forming a picture of exquisite grace and beauty, a bit like heaven on earth.

Apr 26, 2009


This is a belief in or the pursuit in the unification with the One or some other principle; the immediate consciousness of God; or the direct experience of religious truth. Mysticism is nearly universal and unites most religions in the quest for divinity. It can also be a sense of mystical knowledge. Dionysius the Areopagite was the first to introduce the concept "unknown knowing" to the Western World. In areas of the occult and psychic it denotes an additional domain of esoteric knowledge and paranormal communication. Even though it is thought that just monks and ascetics can become mystics, mysticism usually touches all people at least once in their lives.

The term "mysticism" comes from the classical Greco-Roman mystery cults. Perhaps it came from myein meaning "to close the lips and eyes, and refers to the sacred oath of the initiates, the mystes, to keep secret about the inner workings of the religion." In Neo-platonism "mysticism" came to be associated with secrecy of any kind. The term mystica appeared in the Christian treatise, Mystica Theologia, of an anonymous Syrian Neoplatonist monk of the late fifth or early sixth century, who was known pseudonymously as Dionysius the Areopagite. In this work mysticism was described as the secrecy of the mind.

Despite the various approaches to mysticism it seems to possess some common characteristics. Such were the findings of the philosopher W. T. Stace, who discovered seven common themes of mysticism when studying Roman Catholic, Protestant, ancient classical, Hindu, and American agnostic mystical experiences. They were (1) a unifying vision and perception of the One by the senses and through many objects; (2) the apprehension of the One as an inner life; (3) and objective and true sense of reality; (4) feelings of satisfaction, joy, and bliss; (5) a religious element that is a feeling of the holy and sacred; (6) a paradoxical feeling; (7) and inexpressible feelings.

From the above is can easily be seen that mysticism is not the same to every person experiencing it. Therefore, there are various kinds or types. Various mystics subscribe to one of two theories of Divine Reality: emanation or immanence. In the emanation view, all things in the universe are overflowing from God. In the immanence view, the universe is not projected from God, but is immersed in God.

Mysticism is usually thought of as being of a religious nature, which can be either monistic or theistic. The objective of monistic mysticism is to seek unity and identity with a universal principle; while theistic mysticism seeks unity, but not identity, with God.

The ultimate expression of monistic mysticism is perhaps best displayed in the Upanishads of India, as in the concepts of "I am Brahman" (the all-pervading principle) and tat tram asi "that thou art," meaning that the soul is the eternal and Absolute Being. Monistic mysticism is also found in Taoism,, which seeks unity with Tao, the ineffable way. Theistic mysticism, unity with God, characterizes Christianity, Judaism (in the Kabbalah), and Islam (the Sufi sect), and is also found in Hinduism.

There are other forms of mysticism throughout the world. Many assume a religious nature according to the beliefs and practices of the practitioners. Most of these states of mysticism commonly possess what is deemed a mystical communion with what is considered sacred which varies from group to group, even subgroup to subgroup, and includes dance, song and chant, the sacred pipe, purifying sweats (a preliminary for undertakings), fasts, dreams, vision quests, and the occasional use of psychotropic drugs.

Apart from religious mysticism, but not entirely separated from it, is nonreligious mysticism. This is more of an experiencing mysticism through, or from, Nature, although some have discovered God or the Absolute of Nature through such experiences. An authentic experience of mysticism derive from Nature is essentially the unity of the subject and the object. In other words, the person becomes one with Nature; all boundaries or separation between the person and Nature disappears. The person becomes part of nature and is not separate from it.

This is clearly seen in the Goddess religion, which includes neo-Paganism and neo-Pagan Witchcraft, which worships Nature. Such worship includes love where the separation between the subject and object vanishes. Starhawk, in The Spiral Dance, defines it as immanence. Immanence is one of the three core principles of the Goddess religion, the other two being interconnection and community. "Immanence means that the Goddess, the Gods, are embodied, that we are each a manifestation of the living being of the earth, that nature, culture, and life in all their diversity are sacred. Immanence calls us to live our spirituality here in the world, to take action to preserve the life of the earth, to live with integrity and responsibility."

A similar point was made in the description of Gaea, previously called Terrebie, or the planet Earth by Otter Zell (formerly Tim Zell), founder and high priest of the Church of All Worlds in Ukiah, California. He redefined divinity and deity as the fulfillment of potential as "the highest level of aware consciousness accessible to each living being, manifesting itself in the self-actualization of that being." So, the cell is thought of as God by its components; the tissue is God to the cells, and so on. The human being manifests a whole new level of awareness, organization, and "emergent wholeness." When describing this level of organization Zell wrote, "We find it appropriate to express recognition of this Unity in the phrase: 'Thou art God.'" And as all things are connected biologically, all eco-systems express a new level of awareness. Therefore, Mother Earth is seen as God. Of this, Zell wrote:

Indeed, even though yet unawakened, the embryonic slumbering subconscious mind of Terrebria is experienced intuitively by us all, and has been referred to instinctively by us as Mother Earth, Mother Nature (The Goddess, The Lady.)

Instinctively every one has done what the neo-Pagan openly admit doing, calling Earth, Mother. This recognition of Earth as our Mother is justified because we all are dependent on her for our survival. Just as the child comes to love the mother who cares and nurtures him, so too, we love Mother Earth who we know loves and nurtures humankind as her children. By definition, this is mysticism