Thought Archive

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ramadan Post 2: Philosophy and Mysticism

We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and inside themselves

Indeed the Quran may be said to precipitate or actively seek its own semiotic analysis, and its clear from the most cursory reading the entire text is riddled with references to the "Signs of God”. Methods of ntepretation of those Signs roughly fall into two camps, those of falsafa (philosophy) and tasawwuf (mysticism). Philosophy has been variously describe by Islamic sources as Greek derived, however Neoplatonic philosophy was the source that greatly inflenced mystics of Gnostic kind and philosophers alike.

The origins of falsafa are purely Greek; the activity of the falsafa begins with Arabic translation of the Greek texts. Thus falsafa appears first as the continuation of the philosophy in the Muslim surroundings. But although falsafa may be called a continuation of Greek thought there is no perfect continuity. (R. Al-Armaldez)
As for tasawwuf, late and great Annemarie Schimmel, while admitting that “to write about Sufism or Islamic mysticism is an almost impossible task” notes:

"Mysticism has been called a great spiritual current which goes through all religions. In its widest sense it may be defined as the conscueniese of the One Reality – be it called Wisdom, Light, Love or Nothing"
Thus, in Islam two of these trends coexisted together, and within them, great spiritual tradions of Ishraqi and Hermetic thought added variety to that fountainhead of inner knowledge of the Divine, that is i the danger of being lost now. In that light, an achievement of the Islamic thought was the separation of the sign of reason in philosophy from the sign of love in tasawwuf on which I will elaborate in future posts.

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