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The Soofees.


fact, then, that such passages, from the Old Testament, so well fall in with even a Christian train of thought, shows that our nature may yet sympathize with this language of the Idumean Mourner; and that, even with our boast of a better faith and a higher spirituality, he was, after all, not so far behind us practically, however dark he may have been in his theoretical views.

[To be concluded.]



Compiled from Tholuck's SsUFISMUS sive Theosophia Persarum Pantheistica, and from other

sources, by Daniel P. Noyes, M. A., Byfield, Mass.

THE. Soofees are a sect of Mohammedan Mystics, or Quietists. “ Traces of the Soofee doctrine,” says Sir John Malcolm, “exist, in some shape or other, in every region of the world. It is to be found in the most splendid theories of the ancient schools of Greece, and of the modern philosophers of Europe. It is the dream of the most ignorant and the most learned, and is seen at one time indulging in the shade of ease, at another traversing the pathless desert.” The opinions of this sect have prevailed most extensively in Hindostan and Persia. At the time when the author just quoted wrote his history (which was published in 1829), their numbers, in the latter kingdom, were estimated by some as high as two, or even three hundred thousand; and the great reputation acquired by one of their ancient priests, enabled his descendants to occupy the Persian throne from A. D. 1500 to 1736.

The name (Soofee) is derived, in the opinion of Tholuck, from the Arabic “sof” (wool), in allusion to the material of their garments. Others have referred it to the Arabic “sufa" (pure), and some to the Greek “gopós” (wise).

A variety of opinions have prevailed, likewise, with regard to the origin of the Soofic doctrines. Some have been disposed to look for it in the philosophy of India ; others, in that of Greece; and Tholuck was, at one time, inclined to the opinion that it took its rise shortly after the death of Haroun Al Raschid, among the Magi of Khorassan. But these views, on thorough examination, appear to be untenable ; and we must, therefore, look to Mohammedanism itself, and the native character of the Eastern nations, for the source of this ancient mysticism. Vol. VI. No. 22.


Mobammed found the Arabs strongly inclined to monastic life; and, for the purpose of checking this tendency, he declared that "the journey to Mecca was accepted, by the Most High God, in its place.” But his effort was unavailing. For in less than thirty years after his death, hermits had become numerous in the deserts; and so strong was the national propensity, that even the most eminent of his followers, Abubeker and Ali, were founders of monastic communities. These were the parents of the later organizations of like nature, and from them, even as late as the twelfth century, Soofism derived all its most famous doctors. The genius and the opinions of those holy men who were placed at the head of these associations, and whose memoirs have employed the ablest pens, furnish the most satisfactory proofs that the Soofic mysticism was something well known in that age. Anecdotes and sayings illustrative of this fact are abundant. The following may be taken as an example of them : Among the most distinguished of these Mobammedan pietists was a woman named Rabia, who died in the 135th year of the Hegira. In the Teskirat ol Aulia (Lives of the Saints), by Ferededdin Attar, occurs the following: Once when Rabia was sick, Hassan Bassriensis, with Malik Dinar, and Schakik Balchi, came to see her. Hassan remarked, “ He is not sincere in his prayers who refuses to endure the chastisements of the Lord.” Then Shakik demurred, and said, “ He is not sincere in his prayers who does not rejoice in the chastisements of the Lord.” But Rabia, detecting an odor of self (egoitatis) in these words, spake as follows : “ He is not sincere in his prayers who, looking upon his Lord, does not altogether forget the chastisements.”

Ibn Chalican (a historian of high authority) relates of Rabia, that she was accustomed, late at night, to ascend to the roof of the house, and there to cry aloud : “O my God! The tumults of day are silent now, voices are hushed, and in secret the maiden rejoices with her lover; but I, in the solitude, delight in thy society, for Thee I avow to be my true lover.”

Another saying of Rabia is particularly note-worthy : Once when walking over the pastures, she exclaimed: “Longing for God seizes me. The turf and stone, indeed, art Thou ; but yet Thee, Thyself, I long to see." Then the Most High God, in his own person, without intervening instrumentality, spake in her heart, “ O Rabia! bath it never reached your ears, how, when Moses prayed that he might see God, the mountain, to which certain particles only of the Divine majesty manifested themselves, was violently sbaken and broken asunder? Do thou, therefore, remain content with my name !"I

Created things were called, by the Eastern Mystics, the names of God.


Anecdotes of Rabia.


Rabia visited Mecca. But having seen the Kaaba, for the purpose of worshipping which she had come—“For the Lord,” said she, “ do I need the Kaaba? What is the Kaaba to me? For I, indeed, have approached so near unto God that I may claim the promise, He who comes an handbreadth toward me, toward bim will I go an ell ;' what is the Kaaba, then, to me?” Once, when urged by her friends to marry, she replied, “Now for this long time has my person been held in the bonds of wedlock; and for this reason am I wont to say, that my existence in mine own self is extinct, but re-created in God; and from that time forth, dwelling beneath the shadow of His dominion, I am wholly in Him (tota Ille sum). Therefore let him who wishes me to become his spouse, seek me, not of myself, but of God.”

When asked in what manner she had reached this height, “ In this,” she replied, " that all that I have found, I have lost in Him." But Hassan again inquiring, “By what method hast thou known Him?" “O, Hassan," she answered, “thou hast known after a method, and through certain means, but I immediately (sine modo)."

Some one inquired of her, whether she beheld God while worshipping Him. “Assuredly,” said she, I behold him,“for whom I cannot see, I cannot worship.” Once, when taken violently ill, she was asked the cause of her sickness, and replied, “ I have been dwelling upon the delights of Paradise, and therefore my Lord hath chastised me.” At another time, she exclaimed, “ I am inwardly consumed, and there is no cure for me, but in union with my friend. Evermore shall I pine away, until, on the last day, I reach my goal.” Hassan Bassriensis is reported to have been the author of the following: “In the first place, it will happen that the blessed, through the unveiling of the Divine majesty, will be lost in ecstasy for seven hundred thousand years ; through their awe of Him they will perish, and, having beheld his loveliness, they will be absorbed into unity."

These examples (says Tholuck) of the mysticism of the first century of the Hegira, are by no means to be despised ; and no one who is even moderately skilled in such matters, can deny that the closest agreement exists between it and Soofism; he could not fail of recognizing here the seeds and elements of the entire Soofic system.

But it was not till the second century of the Hegira, that this mysticism began to make its most extraordinary developments. This age holds a marked place in the history of Mohammedanism. Scarcely had the Grecian philosophy been introduced to the followers of the prophet, when a great diversity and conflict of opinions arose. The old traditional ways of teaching and of believing were, in some places, modified; in others, abolished. Men sought, in the solitude of ascetic life, a refuge from the zeal of party. All things, in fine, began to assume new forms. This age beheld the rise of the four " orthodox sects,” viz. that of Hanbal, of Haneefa, of Schaffei, and of Malik. It witnessed, also, the beginnings and the progress of the scholastic theology, with that of the heresies of the Mutaselitae and Batenici, the establishment of numerous monkish orders, and finally the rise of Soofism. While all things were in dire confusion, and doubt of the truth of their religion was filling the minds of men with uneasiness, mysticism, as is wont to be the case, insinuating itself, by degrees, into the breasts of those who clung the more steadfastly to their faith, secured an immense number of adherents, and spread its branches far and wide. From classes of men the most diverse, appeared those who, moved by conscientious impulse, gave up their accustomed habits, and devoted themselves solely to the task of commending to their fellowcountrymen a fervid zeal in the things of religion, and of showing by example as well as by precept, what the divine love can do. In some cases, persons of high rank and even robber-chiefs from the mountains, assumed the coarse garments of religionists.

A saying of one of these pious bandits has been preserved by Dschmi, in the Beharistan (hortus remus) : “ Fedil Ajad being asked, who was base ?” replied, “ He who worships God out of fear, or from bope of reward.” And again, when they inquired, " But then, in what way dost thou worship God?” “In love," said he, “and friendship; for by the bond of love am I held in subjection to Him.”

That the foundations of Soofism were laid at this time is evident from the fact, that from the 200th year of the Hegira onward, we find frequent mention made of it by authors whose writings still remain. It is settled, moreover, that the sect was already thriving in the time of Schaffei, who died in 204 H. There is extant, in the Teskirat ol Aulia, a saying of that learned Imaam, in which the Soofees are mentioned by name with commendation. Schatfei was wont to say: “ The science of the whole world cannot compare with mine; but not mine, even, can compare with that of the Soofees.”

And Hanbal, another of the four great doctors, bestows no less praise upon them. He affirms that "the Soofee's quiet trust in God excels the most anxious zeal of other men.”

The founder of the sect is even mentioned by name. Casivinius (the Arab geographer, “ Plinius Orientalium”) says that “ Abu Ssaid Abul Cheir was the founder of the system of Soofism or mysticism. After the manner of the Soofees, he built a caravansary, in token of his love to God, and commanded his followers to take food twice in the day. He is the founder of all the Soofic institutions and author of the

Their Principles.

233 Soofic asceticism. Their “sheikhs” are all, to a man, disciples of Ssaid, and their discipline rests upon the illustrious acts of our revered prophet.”

Ssaid's opinion of the aim and purport of Soofism, is given in Dschmi's Beharistan. When the “sheikh" Aben Ssaid Abul Cheir was asked, “What is Soofism ?” He replied, “What thou bearest on thy head, put down; and what thou bearest in thy hand, throw away; and whatsover cometh upon thee, turn not back.” That is to say, Renounce your possessions, and devote yourself without reserve.

From the above statements, we may gather the following important facts.

1. That within one century from the death of Mohammed, mysticism had made no inconsiderable progress among his followers.

2. That these earlier mystics claimed an immediate communion with God, which needed no words or signs, and expected a complete “union” with Him. They placed little value upon any forms or methods of approaching God. They insisted upon a “pure, unselfish” worship.

3. The views of some of them were tinctured with Pantheism ; but

4. Their mystic “science," and their “quiet trust," commanded the respect of some of the greatest, most learned, and pious among the Mobammedans.

5. It required about one hundred years for this vague, floating mysticism to organize into a system and a sect.

6. The man who was chiefly instrumental in this organization, regarded the essence of the system as consisting in the renunciation of worldly possessions, and an unflinching self-consecration.

The origin of Soofism, therefore, having been found, and its early form ascertained, we shall next endeavor to give some account of its subsequent development. It did not long restrain itself within the limits of a simpler piety and of a pure mysticism. In the third century of the Hegira, the Soofees divided into two leading parties. Both of these, the one under Bustamiusl openly, the other under Dschuneid, 2 somewhat covertly, began to assume a mysterious style of discourse, to affect profundity in abstruse speculations, and to sow pernicious doctrines among the people. For this reason Ghasalius accuses Bus

? Died 297 H. • Ghasalius died at Bagdad, A. D. 1127. This man, says Tholuck, if ever any have deserved the name, was truly a divine, and he may be justly placed on a level with Origen, so remarkable was he for learning and ingenuity, and gifted with such a rare faculty for the skilful and worthy exposition of doctrine. All that is

1 Died 261 H.

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