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EPR100: Ethics, Philosophy and Religion

EPR100: Ethics, Philosophy and Religion
Knowing God in Islam

Reading: Majid Fakhry, ‘The Rise and Development of Islamic Mysticism’ in A History of Islamic Philosophy (London: Columbia University Press, 1970), Ch. 8, pp. 262-286.

Is knowing God the same as or different from knowing the self in Islamic mysticism?

Annihilation of self
Direct experience 

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Destruction of personal identity

Read p. 262

Mysticism, ‘the total destruction of personal identity and the reversion to the primordial condition of undifferentiated unity, as in Hinduism and Buddhism, is discouraged by many teachings of the Islamic religion.’

Why do you think this might be?

Goes against transcendence God - unto Him nothing is like

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Glory be to me

Read p. 273

Zaehner points out the influence of Hindu (Vedantic) mysticism on Al-Bastami

How does this influence manifest itself?
Why could it be problematic in an Islamic context?

Clear links to Vedantic metaphysics not only in the case of Al-Bastami's Indian master who taught him some ultimate truths but also in tthe very complexion of his thought and its nihilistic implications.

Al-Batsami lived at a time in which the revival and systemisation of vedantic thought itself was being actively pursued by Shankara and his school

his eccentric utteranes I am Thou, Glory be to me assert his self-identification with the divine and have numerous parallels in the Upanishads and Vedanta

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The essence of union

Read p.274

How does Al-Hallaj differ from Al-Bastami on the annihilation of the self?

Why did many look upon him as “a charlatan and a heretic”?

Al-Hallaj differed from Al-Bastami on the annihilation of the self by his union not resulting in the destruction or nullification of the self as it did for Al-Bastami.

Rather Al-Hallaj said that his annihilation of the self was due to its elevation to joyful and intimate communion with the Beloved.
Charged against his claim to be God
And free the pious of the ritual prescriptions of Isalmic low
He spoke on behalf of God in first person and said this was completely acceptible with the Sufi doctrine of 'essence of union'

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Absolute unity and perfection

Read pp. 277 – 80

Al-Ghazali is credited with trying to harmonize mysticism and orthodoxy

What ‘three elements’ in this synthesis are identified here? Why is Al-Ghazali’s mysticism described as ‘Neo-Platonic’? What is said of ‘those who have arrived’ (pp. 279 – 80)

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Mindful consciousness - everything comes from one principle- very monotheistic

Key assumptions:

 “that mindful consciousness (nous, often translated as thought, intelligence, or intellect) is in an important sense ontologically prior to the physical realm typically taken for ultimate reality (Mind over Matter).” (Platonic)

“that reality, in all its cognitive and physical manifestations, depended on a highest principle which is unitary and singular…: “the First”, “the One”, or “the Good” (Egyptian/Christian)

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Muslim Neo-Platonism

Aristotle through Neo-Platonism, (synthesis of Plato & Aristotle by Plotinus 2ndC) , a formulation of a philosophical ideal in harmony with the religious ideal. 

•Engages with the Qur’an but not in the same way as kalam (early rationalist theology). 
Muslim Neo-Platonism engages with revelation but not given the same importance as Sharia. 

Islamic philosophy (?) 

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Qur’anic linkages with Neoplatonism

* Self-conscious God:
When He intends a thing, His command is, "be", and it is! (Q.36:82)

'God is the Light of the heavens and the earth...Light upon light! God guides to His Light whom He wills.' (Q.24:35) 

causation- God's consciousness is reason for existence, light upon light- light emanating from one light to another - this verse indicative of emanation. 

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reading AlGhazali

Al-Ghazali is credited with trying to harmonise mysticism and orthodoxy 
Three elements in this synthesis that are identified are : 

Pledged his full support to orthopraxy and bent his efforts to bringing everything he cherished into harmony with it. 

Three elements:
1) Koranic concept of a Supreme being  wholly other than the world which He created by an unconditioned act of free will (al-amr) 

2) The Neo-Platonic hierarchy of being, in which Reason serves as a link between God and His creation. 

3) The Hallajian concept f God dwelling in the Soul and using it as an instrument 

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Al-Ghazali neoplatonic

Al-Ghazali's mysticism is described as Neo-Platonic because the Neo-Platonic of hierarchy of being serves as the metaphysical groundwork of his whole mysticism

God as the light of heaven and earth which like the Illuminationists of twelfth century, al-Ghazali interprets in distinctly mystical terms.

The hierarchy of luminous entites is determined by the degree of their  proximity to the Supreme light of God.

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'Those who have arrived'

What is said of ‘those who have arrived’ (pp. 279 – 80)

A fourth category of knowers al-wasilin (those who have arrived) recognise that this al-Muta lacks the attribute of absolute unity and perfection, and they consequently look beyond it to the ineffable Creator of heaven and earth. 

Most privileged are those  who have attained this stage are completely annihilated or absorbed in the Supreme One asp/ they cannot see themselves or any other human being - only God's face.

This mystical condition annihilation (fana) or the annihilation of  annihilation since the mystic is dead to himself as well as to his own death.

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Wensick has written: 'Ghazali does not see in existence anything save the Unique Being., who for some unknown reason has at one moment of eternity figured out and realised a world which possesses in itself neither extinction nor the power to act...

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Read p.283 – 84

What is the nature of Man’s special status according to Ibn-Arabi?

What is the described as the “highest level of mystical experience”?  

Man for Ibn Arabi is the embodiment of universal reason and the being in whom all attributes or perfecions of God are reflected. In addition, it belongs to man alone to know God fully.

The human soul is distinguished from the animal.

The final stage of mystical awareness i called the stage of annihilation or extinction in unity.

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