THE SUFI APPROACH TO ISLAM -
Finding Spiritual Healing and World Peace in these Troubled Times
 
ALLEVIATING INSANITY - 
PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOTHERAPEUTICS IN ISLAM

A note. NAHJUL BALAGHA - PEAKS OF ELOQUENCE were the writings of Iman Ali on the realities of God, the meanings of Islam, and the interpretation of current events. There are no Sufi masters who are not in some way a manifestion of this same eloquence. It is amazing how true it is that the spiritual significance of humanity would deteriorate proportionately to the distance in time from the advent of Muhammad. Looking at the profound influence of Sufi studies as an accurate portrayal of human psychology.

In Islam, the standard of mental perfection is based upon an obvious awareness of truth, and one's ability to manifest it, or "bear witness". A "perfect knowing", if you will. A perfect knowing is manifested by a "perfect representation" of what is known. It is assumed that the "outward" matches and manifests the "inward", so a perfect witnessing (bearing witness) in the outward reflects and is based upon a perfect witnessing in the inward.

Q. What is witnessing? What do you mean by that?

Apparently different in the outward but similar in the inward are the subjects of mental perfection and sanity. Mental perfection might be thought of as a standard in studies of psychology or psychotherapy, while sanity might be consider to be more a matter of law and legal responsibility. But in Islam they are viewed much the same. Sanity is the basis and bottom line of mental perfection. Now by mental perfection I am not speaking of educational differences. There is no doubt that the more educated one is the more that one will manifest a perfect understanding of the topic. This is not the mentality that I'm referring to. What I am referring to is the innate capacity of each individual to know and understand the truth, and secondarily, what that individual does, in reality, understand. It is more like an evaluation of innate intelligence and the choices made concerning its fundamental uses. And the basic assumption is that everyone has it to the level of his or her needs in life. There are, of course, exceptions. 

Judgment of sanity and mental competence is based largely upon one's manifestation of understanding of truth. Sanity, in courts of law, is judged by one's reasoning ability, against that standard of what is considered to be obvious truth as commonly known and socially present in the accepted Islamic revelation and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Sanity (or guilt), in this light, is judged with the standard of compassion and reason, and the judges are chosen for their ability to discern the deep inner truths at work in all cases. 

The standard of "obvious truth" has three clearly distinct levels, each with its own lesser gradations. There is the witnessing of truth that is insincere mimicry and there is the witnessing of truth that is sincere mimicry. These are the two that are most common, and they are both of the mind, while the habits of the lower self are only being partially curtailed and are not, in any remarkable way, transformed. Both witnessings are to be taken at face value, and one's sincerity is never to be judged or questioned. 

Beyond those levels of understanding are the witnessings of the deeply sincere who have begun to genuinely incorporate the reality of their faith into their hearts. Their witnessing takes on the manifestation of the reality in the heart, and not just the coloring of a well-informed mind.

More rarely to be encountered are the truly transformed, whose sincerity is manifest in every deed, word, action and moment in their lives. These are the true journeyman professors, the real masters, who have chosen, for the most part, to enter into a walk of life where they will find themselves and their unique talents most useful. 

These levels might be equated with the classical western educational standards of the Bachelor, the Master, and the Doctor of Philosophy. The bachelor has a license to practice, the apprentice, so to speak. The master has practiced and gained mastery of the subject such that in his profession he takes on apprentices, and his practice thrives. The doctor of philosophy is a master of such experience that he is now a teacher of others, either privately or in an institute of higher learning. 

So it is in Islam with levels of awareness of truth. Life is a huge university. And even though you may enter into it with a great deal of learning, until the time comes when you have actually graduated from the various schools established, it is very difficult to prove to the discerning mind that you have the requisite knowledge to teach. And yet we have, in this anxious world in which we live, over-enthusiastic under-grads prematurely usurping the positions of the teachers, and trying to set the world straight by enforcing their unenlightened, uneducated and immature understandings of truth on the rest of the world. God himself revolts at such attempts. Rebellion attracts only rebellion. The Universe rebels against rebellion and we reap only what we sow. So how is it that they have the hope of succeeding?

The only hope for a re-introduction of the truth of Islam into the world, and thereby for its "salvation", is from the very West, which has been posed as the great enemy. Nothing in Allah's creation is not holy and from Him. All people are in the garden, except those who choose not to be, and even they, for as long as they are alive, have the freedom of choice to re-enter the garden by accepting this belief, by simply converting their belief system to that which is offered in this book. All I'm suggesting is a simple re-surrendering to Allah, the God from which they came, and manifesting the blessing of their existence with love and innocence once again. 

The understanding of and re-introduction of Godly reality and understanding into the world of Islam from the west is already in action and was predicted by God in the famous hadith of the "Sunrise in the West" - "The last day will not come until the sun has risen in the West".

It is simply up to humanity, one individual at a time, to realize that heaven is indeed our reality. That it is confirmed by the Islamic revelation (see Islamic History and the Origins of Sufism) and that the believers in that are the believers in God and the "saved", and that the disbelievers in that are in some level of belief less than fully realized, and looking for help. And that the disbelievers in Peace altogether are the very dogs of war, and that war is Hell and people chose to go there all the time.

In Islam, it is never assumed that the "standard" of "perfection of mind" is attainable only by a few. As a matter of fact, the standard of "perfection" is, in reality, a genuine standard, which is well within the reach of all. Perfection in Islam is not considered to be in the sense of "that which is unattainable", rather in the sense of that which IS attainable. Much the same a father would consider the best efforts of a child to be "perfect". 

Using this "perfect knowing" as the standard of mental perfection, Islamic psychotherapy simply observes the varying degrees and manifestations of "imperfection" and reasons out the appropriate process or practice to bring the student or patient back into the innate level of consciousness wherein perfect awareness resides. 

This science has seriously devolved in the last century of Islam. This is a result of the overwhelming popularity of the western economic structure and the financial rewards of western education which most unequivocally demands the capitulation of the esoteric, spiritual and scientific studies of the great, and very successful, Islamic Scholars of Law and Spiritual psychology. 

Another testament to the greatness of this science is that it is well known that in the early years of the American Constitution, justices of the Supreme court would refer to Islamic law when left without precedent from their own legal system. And yet another, and even more glaring, is that in the middle of the hopeless mess of western internal medicine, and the spiritual dilemma of western psychology and psychotherapists, the truly caring among the practitioners of these professions are turning to eastern philosophies and religious studies for answers. 

It is only of late (hopefully not too late) that the value of these sciences is being rediscovered by western researchers in need of help. The incredible value of this knowledge is testified to by the tenacity with which the Sufis study, practice, guard and preserve it. There are even religious traditions from the prophet that say when there are no more students and practitioners of this science, the drama of life on earth will be near the end. 

And even though the reluctance to give Islam any credit in the fields of human understanding is great (the "harder" sciences such as architecture and calligraphy being greatly preferred), it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Sufism has preserved the truth and has something of tremendous value to offer. 

I have known this all my life and set out at an early age to learn the secrets of the Sufi path and the popular sciences of Tasawwuf which in western language comprises spiritual psychology, law, psychotherapy, healing and therapeutic techniques, and health sciences from every possible aspect. As one might expect, these "branches" as we like to refer to them in the West, are all of the same tree. And they have everything to do with the simplicity of a proper understanding of Islam. And by this I do not mean the modern and popular perversions that voraciously support the quest for material gain. This understanding is of value to both Muslims and westerners, for we are all in reality, exactly the same. There is no difference. In Reality, there is no conflict to resolve. So understanding Reality is the resolution of all conflicts. And Reality is exactly what is dealt with and explained in detail by the Qur`an and the Islamic revelation. 

The three levels of awareness are hearing/speaking, seeing/witnessing and knowing/being. In between hearing and witnessing is believing. It is well known in Islam (and increasingly in western psychology) that we see what we believe, and that the implantation (word?) of a truthful and realistic belief structure is necessary for truth to be known and "seen". 

In Islam, a perfect witnessing is of Allah and His Prophet, i.e. to (know oneself to) be in the presence of the Prophet at all times. This is the highest station in Islam and is known and prayed for by Muslims universally. It is considered the peak reward and the beginning place for the Sufis.  In this respect, "sufi" means, "healed". It is only desirable and desired because it is a reality, a fact, awareness of which is a latent and innate potential within every one of us. 

For the people of separation, this is referred to as a "will be". It is projected into the future in the "life after death" as a paradisaical state to be hoped for and earned by living a pious and devout life. These are the people of Shari`at, or the "outside" law of Islam. Their job, and the key to their salvation, is the cloaking of themselves in the virtuous qualities and behavior exemplified by the Prophet. They are referred to in the Qur`an as "the companions of the right hand" and are to be left in peace, the certainty of their reward is unquestionable. 

There are among them, however, severely repressed zealots, of whom the Prophet spoke by saying, "by destructive zealotry my back hath been broken". These are they who have not been educated in the secrets of spiritual realities referred to as the Haqa`iq, or the elements of reality, Haqiqat. Over-educated in the elements of shari`at, they seek to force the world to conform to their narrow views and wishes. There is no doubt that they believe themselves to represent the struggle against oppression, and in many cases do, but none of the masters of their faith are encouraging them to wage war, but to learn the realities and to educate themselves and others. 

So the difference between levels of understanding is one of salvation vs. self-realization, and what must be done for each. Self-realization is the attempt to reach, know and realize our full potential, the knowledges, states and realities promised to us in the after-life now. As sacrilegious as it may sound to those who believe it is impossible, more than mere tastes are available to us. This is one of the subjects of Sufism and has to do with the aspect of healing. 

They are two different but non-exclusive mindsets. Each is to be respected by the other. Islam is nothing if not respect. (ad-din adhab, kulluha.)

In Islamic law, one is not considered to be of sound mind if one is not a witness to the Unity of God and the Prophecy of Muhammad. The truth of this witnessing is a sound and irrefutable revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, to be denied only by the ill or the sick in mind, so obviously the healing must come first. And if we are not healed ourselves, how can it be expected of us that we can heal others. The Sufi way is the pathway of healing coming from and leading to the perfect witnessing held by the Prophet and his family and the "ones who are near" (sabiqun). And even the people who have studied and practiced Sufism as a separate study from Islam are under an obligation to Allah to seek proximity to the family of the Prophet. 

Again, this reality has three levels of awareness - the witnessing by tongue, by sight and by heart. 

The gnostic path, or the Sufi path, is that of perfect witnessing. Witnessing the truth is sanity; non-witnessing is delusion, or insanity. But again, sanity has three distinct levels. They are: mimicry, which is only imitation and no real sanity at all, connection (to the sincere and realized), which is indicative of an awareness of one's relative state (of self-doubt) and a willingness to learn, and realization, which is a full body/mind/heart/ awareness of truth. 

It is the purpose of this school to provide direction toward the completion of awareness, a perfect witnessing and a completed self-realization. In this purpose, this school is identical with Allah Himself, and His intent toward humanity in His revealing to the Prophet the religion of Surrender (Islam). 

The people of outward mimicry hear of the realization of Truth and unjustly judge Allah and themselves as unworthy of such high and lofty stations, whereas Allah Himself has stated the He has created us equally, after one mold, And that He Himself is the sustainer of life and hearts. They claim to judge themselves unable to attain, to apprehend, to comprehend it in this life. But it is really more a manifestation of their unwillingness to let go of the life of their world, which comes from the sickness in their hearts which they attribute to their upbringing ("we saw our fathers practicing such").

Healing the Heart through Direct Realization.

Many recognize it as a state of the soul but attribute soul and soul quality to the life after death. And indeed, from the perspective of the ego, it is. But were they to take a closer look at the potentials for realization, unity and success offered by the Sufis, who are Muslims inviting to the way of Healing the Heart through Direct Realization (Gnosis - ma`arifat), they would see that the realization of soul quality in this life is the exact medicine needed and the healing purpose of the religion in which they believe and follow.

They relegate realization to a world after death and thereby cling to what they know of the life of this world, calling it reality. This is the state of the common - deluded and asserting their delusion to be reality, when Allah is the Only Reality and calls them to His Reality inexorably, in spite of themselves. They relegate the higher realities to a realm to be hoped for. They are known in Islam to be the people of "Shari`at only". And they believe that the whole of Islam is comprised by their knowledge of it.


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