Mysticism in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy

Mysticism in Arabic & Islamic Philosophy

Mysticism in the Islamic context has traditionally been intertwined with the notion of Ḥikmah, which is at once both wisdom and philosophy (Nasr 1996). The source of mysticism and the mystical elements in Islam are to be traced to the Qur’an and the Islamic doctrine itself. Some of the Qur’anic verses have been viewed by the mystics and philosopher-mystics of Islam as allegorical and esoteric hints for those who can see them. “God is the Outward and the Inward” (Qu’ran 57:3), “he for whom wisdom is given, he truly has received abundant good” (Qu’ran 2:269), and the famous light verses

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth, the likeness of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp, the lamp is a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star kindled from a blessed tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil well-night would shine, even if no fire touched it; light upon lights; God guides to His light whom He will. And God strikes similitudes for man, and God has knowledge of everything. (Qu’ran 24:35)
can all be seen as containing esoteric insight. Through out the ages, these verses have inspired a number of Muslim gnostics, some of whom, such as Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī (12th CE) and Mullā Ṣadrā (16th CE) have written commentaries upon them (e.g., Mullā Ṣadrā's On the Hermeneutics of the Light Verse of the Quran).
From a mystical perspective, all later developments and interactions between Islamic philosophy and other intellectual traditions should therefore be seen as rational expressions of the mystical elements within an Islamic milieu. Mystical elements exist in Islam in two different and independent ways. Practically, Sufism represents the esoteric dimension of Islam in its purest form, while theoretically salient features of Islamic mysticism were gradually incorporated into the Islamic philosophical tradition. Islamic mysticism, therefore, stands on two pillars: first practical, then philosophical. That is, esoteric wisdom can either be attained through practical wisdom, which includes inner purification and asceticism, or through a type of philosophy which includes, but is not limited to discursive reasoning.

Read the entire paper below:
1. Neoplatonism and Sufism
2. The Isma‘ili Tradition
3. The “Period of Cessation” and the School of Shiraz
4. The School of Isfahan and Mulla Sadra
5. Conclusion
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