Sufi Literature and Poetry
As has been previously
mentioned, earlier Sufism was based on an oral tradition, but around 1000
AD, its teachings and doctrines were put into writing. For the next four
centuries, Sufi literature flourished in the form of manuals, mystical
tales and anecdotes, treatises on Islamic theology, philosophy,
metaphysics and mystical poetry.
Sufi manuals were for the
instruction and practice of new "initiates," in various orders. They took
a form of "master-disciple" instruction on correct behaviour and conduct
within the order. They also dealt with strict "obedience" to the master,
methods of "dhikr
" and meditation, and also with piety and devotion
to God. A famous classical manual is by IBN ARABI called, "Journey to
the Lord of Power,
" which is a handbook on spiritual
Tales and anecdotes in the
form of literature are really meant as "teaching tales," with the purpose
of driving home a moral or mystical point. Some of the tales are elaborate
and allegorical in their content. A classical example is ATTAR's
"Conference of the Birds
," and SA'DI's "The Rose Garden
and many others by Arabic and Persian authors and poets.
Classical Sufi treatises on
the nature and essence of Sufism and Islamic theology were written by the
famous Sufi philosopher AL GAZALLI, who lived in Damascus, Syria around
1100 AD. His famous work called "Reconstruction of Religious
," and "Alchemy of Happiness
"' are classic examples.
Another Sufi master IBN ARABI, born in Spain around 1160 AD, is perhaps
the most profound Sufi author of his time. Two of his famous works are
called "Bezels of Wisdom,
" and"Meccan Revelations.
deal with theories on pantheism and monotheism, such as the theory that
asserts that "God is Nature, and Nature God." The other theory
differentiates God from Nature, by asserting that "God is above Nature,
which He created." Yet other theories deal with the "Unity of Being," and
the "wisdom of prophecy," and so on. Studies based on such works are still
subjects for Sufi contemplation and meditation.
Sufi poetry is recited by
Sufis to enhance mystical awareness. Such poetry written in the "classical
era" were by Arabic poet IBN-AL-FARID, and persian poets such as HAFIZ,
SA'DI, JAMI and RUMI. RUMI, perhaps is the best known in the West for his
monumental poetic works called the "Masnavi
." Poetic imagery both symbolic and mystical, depicts
the central themes with which all Sufis are familiar with, are the "pangs
of separation of the lover from the beloved," the "individual soul's"
desire for mystical union with the "Universal soul," These are some of the
important themes. Classical and modern Sufi poetry can be found from North
Africa and Middle East, to India and Indonesia.