Over fifty years ago, in 1931, a great scholar of Muslim mysticism, Emile Dermenghem, published, along with the French translation of the famous poem of Ibn al-Fārid on the mystical wine, a letter which a young Moroccan had written him. 41 This young man described gatherings of dhikr, of invocation, which he had attended several years earlier in a small mosque in Fez. The dervishes who participated in these gatherings belonged to the Shādhiliyyah order and the correspondent concluded his letter with these words: "All that, alas, is only a memory.... Where are the fakirs of yesteryear? The old ones have passed away or become infirm. The young ones have become modernized and prefer to spend their time drinking aperitifs in cafes or strolling through the new city. The Orient, unfortunately, is losing its essence along with its charm. The divine Breath which exhaled the verses of Ibn al-Fārid no longer fills chests. Where will this lead?"

No doubt these observations are true; this sadness is legitimate. Inexorably, all people are adopting, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, a mode of life as well as of thought--since one does not engage the body without engaging the soul--diametrically opposed to the course of religion and, a fortiori, to the mystical path. The Prophet Mustafa (Allah bless him and give him peace), or perhaps his son in-law Hazrat Alī, once said, "Act for this present world as if you were going to live forever, and act for the other world as if you were going to die tomorrow." More and more, modern man, whether of the West or the East, has the tendency to retain only the first part of this advice; he devotes all his energy to organizing his well-being here on earth, as if this world would last forever. By doing this he loses sight of the fact that the passage on earth is, in reality, only one step. He forgets that according to the teaching of Jesus, Sayyidnā Īsā, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by all the words which come from the mouth of God" ( Matthew 4:4); or that, according to the teaching of the Quran (XCIII, 4), "The other life, certainly, is better for you than this one."

However, let us not be totally pessimistic. Behind the picture we are currently given of the Orient divided and prey to the agony of difficult economic, social, and political organization remain stable values and an authentic civilization. Men remain, again according to a Quranic saying, whose "business dealings do not turn them from the remembrance of God" (XXIV, 37). If certain spiritual centers have disappeared, others, even beyond the classical borders of the dār al-islām, have taken up the refrain which has lasted more than thirteen centuries. Thus, the Muslim Orient has not failed in its traditional mission, that which generations of dervishes and

Sufis have fulfilled: to pass from century to century the good news that there exists a path that leads to God, and to guide along this path the souls enraptured by a Truth that never dies.

Translated by Katherine O'Brien


'abd. Slave, servant, the state in which man should be before God, according to Islam.

'abd Allāh. The servant of God, also one of the names of the Prophet.

adab. Courtesy, culture, correct comportment.

'adalah. Justice.

adam-i ruhani. Spiritual Adam, man's archetype, according to Isma'ili teachings.

'adhab. Suffering and pain usually associated with the posthumous states of those who have committed sin.

'adil. Just, fair, a Divine Name, God being the Just, al-'ādil.

al-'Afu. The Forgiver, a Divine Name.

al-Ahad. The One, a Divine Name.

ahadiyyah. Oneness, the state in which all of God's Names and Qualities are one with His Essence.

'ahd. Covenant, agreement, promise.

ahl al-bayt. "People of the household," a term used in Shi'ism to refer to the family of the Prophet such as Fatimah, Ali, their sons Hasan and Husayn and their descendants.

ahl al-sunnah. The people who follow the traditions of the Prophet, constituting the majority who are usually referred to as Sunnis.

akhirah. The next world, the world of resurrection and eschatological realities.

akhlaq. Ethics and also character.

'alam al-ghayb. The invisible world, the spiritual world.

'alam al-ibdā'. The world of origination used in Isma'ili cosmology to refer to the highest level of the cosmos.

'alam al-mithal. The world of similitude, usually identified with the imaginal world.

'alam al-takhayyul. The imaginal world, standing between the physical and the purely intelligible worlds.




It concerns the Hadīth called "of Gabriel" or "or 'Umar," in the name of the companion who reported it. It figures in the collection of Muslim, Imīn, I.


By "Sufi" (adjective and noun) and "Sufism," we mean here that which relates to the interior, mystical, esoteric dimension of Sunni Islam. Although it has certain close relationships with Sufism, Shi'ite mysticism, which includes Ismi 'ili gnosis and Imāmi gnosis, is distinguished by specific traits which form a subject of other chapters in this volume.


F. Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, trans. P. Townsend (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1984). No student of Sufism can dispense with consulting the other works of the same author, namely, Understanding Islam, trans. D. M. Matheson] ( London: Allen & Unwin, 1963); Sufism: Veil and Quintessence, trans. W. Stoddart ( Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 1981); and Dimensions of Islam, trans. P. Townsend ( London: Allen & Unwin, 1970).


The English orientalist R. A. Nicholson collected seventy-eight of them ( "A Historical Enquiry Concerning the Origin and Development of Sufism with a List of Definitions of the Terms 'sufi' and 'tasawwuf' arranged chronologically", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society [ 1906] 303-48), but 'Abd al-Qādir Baghdādi had in the fifth/ eleventh century already collected a thousand, according to L. Massignon, Essai sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane ( Paris: J. Vrin, 1954) 156.


Cited by E. Dermenghem, L'Eloge du Vin (Al-Khamriya): Poème mystique de 'Omar Ibn al-Fâridh (Paris: Les Éditions Véga, 1931) 37.


Mīzān al-'amal, cited by A. J. Wensinck, La Pensée de Ghazzālī (Paris: AdrienMaisonneuve, 1940) 143-44.


See al-Hujwīrī, Kashfal-Mahjūb, trans. R. A. Nicholson (London: Luzac, 1911).


See the article "Khirka" in Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.) (by J.-L. Michon); see also J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1971) 181-93. The latter work, based on extensive documentation, gives a good survey of the whole of Sufism, considered in the light of its historical development, its doctrinal variations, its ritual practices, and the organization of the brotherhoods.


Translated by R. W. J. Austin as Sufis of Andalusia (London: Allen & Unwin, 1971). The passages reproduced here are from pp. 69-70.


Translated by R. W. J. Austin as Sufis of Andalusia (London: Allen & Unwin, 1971). The passages reproduced here are from pp. 69-70.


S. H. Nasr, Sufi Essays ( Albany, NY: SUNY, 1972) 57-59.


Ibid., 58 .


Al-Suhrawardī, Kitāb 'awarif al-ma'arif (The Blessings of Knowledge), chap. 55. Extracts have been translated by E. Blochet in Etudes sur l'esoterisme musulman (Louvain: Isras, 1910).


J.-L. Michon, L'Autobiographie (Fahrasa) du Soufi marocain Ahmad Ibn 'Ajība (1747-1809) et son mi'rāj (Leiden: Brill, 1969) 163.


Ibid., 160 .


The immense body of literature treating the dhikr cannot be summarized here.


One could consult the article "Dhikr" in Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.) (by L. Gardet) and, especially, the few pages that T. Burckhardt dedicates to this topic in An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, trans. D. M. Matheson (Wellingborough: Thorsons, 1976) 99ff. See also M. Lings, What is Sufism? (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981) chap. 7, "The Method"; and W. Stoddart, Sufism: The Mystical Doctrines and Methods (Wellingborough: Thorsons, 1976) 64-70).


Especially by Abū Hamīd al-Ghazzālī, who made of this one of the major themes of The Revival of the Sciences of Religion (Iāyā' 'ulūm al-dīn) (Cairo: al-Maktabat al-Tijāriyyat al-Kubrā, 1352 A.H.) III. Likewise, in the contemporary period, the Algerian Sufi Aḥmad al-`Alawī (d. 1934) explained all the religious prescriptions of Islam in terms of their value for dhikr. See al-Minah al quddūsiyyah fī sharḥ al-murshid al-mu'īn bi tarīq al-ūfiyyah ( Tunis, 1324 A.H.) extracts of which have been translated by M. Lings in A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawī ( London: Allen & Unwin, 1971) chaps. 10 and 11.


See especially F. Schuon, Understanding Islam, 122-28.


This doctrine is developed with great clarity by Ibn Ata' Allah of Alexandria, the third great master of the Shadhilī order (d. 709/1309), in his treatise entitled Kitāb miftaṭ al-falaṭ wa mibah al-arwāh (The Key of Felicity and the Lamp of Souls) ( Cairo: Mutafā al-Bābi al-Halabī, 1381/1961) 143 pp. The introduction to this treatise was translated into French by M. Gloton, Traité sur le nom Allāh (Paris: Les Deux Océans, 1981) 209-20.


Cited by Ibn 'Ajibah in Mi'raj al-tashawwuf ilā haqā'iq al-taawwuf; French translation in J.-L. Michon's Le Soufi marocain Ahmad Ibn 'Ajība (1746-1908) et son mi'rāj, glossaire de la mystique musulmane (Paris: J. Vrin, 1973) 215.


For a description of the modalities and techniques applied in the two "traditions" of the solitary dhikr and the collective dhikr, see L. Gardet, "La mention du Nom divin, dhikr, dans la mystique musulmane", Revue Thomiste 52 ( 1952) 648-62.


The repetition of these formulas has its foundations in the prophetic tradition. Thus, the Prophet said, "There is not a server or a servant who has said seventy times each day, 'I ask forgiveness from God' without God having pardoned him of seven hundred sins; the loser is the server or servant who would commit in one day and one night more than seven hundred sins' (al-Bayhaqī in Shu'ab al-imān, according to Anas).

Anas heard the Prophet say, "whoever prays to me one hundred prayers, God inscribes between his two eyes innocence from hypocrisy and safeguards him from hell; on the Day of Judgment, He places him with the martyrs" (Tabarānī).

"Never has a servant said, 'There is no divinity but God, Unique, without equal, to Him the Kingdom, to Him the praise, and He is All-Powerful above every thing,' with pure adherence of spirit, sincerity of heart and pronunciation of tongue without God opening wide the heavens to look down upon the one who speaks thus from the earth; or the one whom God looks down upon seeing his prayers granted" (Nasā'ī, according to Majmū' al-awrād, compiled by 'Uddah ibn Tūnis [ 2nd ed.; Damascus: Matba'a attawfīq, 1350/1932]).


As in the famous Khamriyyah of the Egyptian Sufi 'Umar ibn al-Fāri (d. 632/ 1235), a poem for which, in fact, Nābulusī wrote a commentary. See Dermenghem, L'Eloge du vin.


Another example of madh nabawi, taken from the Mawlawi meeting, appears in the section entitled "Praises on the Prophet" of my chapter on "Sacred Music and Dance" to appear in volume 20 of this Encyclopaedia. The same chapter, for the most part, completes the descriptions of the sacred dance given here while analyzing in particular the controversial question of the licentiousness of sami' and of the seeking out of ecstasy, as well as the various elements of the spiritual concert--the human voice, the musical instruments, the melody, and the rhythms.


Paraphrased from the Traité sur la séance mawlawie of Dîvâne Mehmed Tchelebi (16ème s.), cited in M. Molé, Les Danses sacrées (Paris: Seuil, 1963) 248-49.


This can be compared with a letter in which a dervish likens the nay to the "perfect man," cited in E. Meyerovitch, Mystique et poésie en Islam--Rūmī et l'ordre des derviches tourneurs ( Brussels: Desclée de Brouwer, 1972) 89.


Cited by Ibn Ajibah in Iqaz al-himam fī sharh al-Hikam (Cairo: Muaafā al-Babi al-Halabī, 1381/1961) 357.


See the commentary on this hadith attributed to Ibn 'Arabī but actually by Awhad Al-Dīn Balyānī, "Whoso Knoweth Himself...," trans. T. H. Weir ( London: Beshara, 1976).


Ibn Ajibah, Mi'rāj, al-muhāsabah wa' l-mushāratah (rubrics 14-15), trans. J.-L. Michon, L'Autobiographie, 190-91.


The muhasabah found a famous exponent in the person of the Sufi Hārith ibn Asad al-Muhāsibī (d. 243/857 in Kufa), who took his surname from it; see M. Smith, An Early Mystic of Baghdād (London: Sheldon Press, 1935); Mahmoud Abdel-Halīm, Al-Mohasibi (Paris: Geuthner, 1940); and J. Van Ess, Die Gedankenwelt des Harith al-Muhasibi ( Bonn: Selbstverlag des orientalischen Seminars der Universität Bonn, 1961).


According to Hésychius de Batos, cited in La Philocalie, trans. J. Gouillard (Paris: Éditions des Cahiers du Sud, 1953) 202.


See P. Nwyia, Ibn Ata' Allah (m. 709/1309) et la naissance de la confrérie shādhilite (Beirut: Dār al-Mashriq, 1972); Hikma nos. 22, 96 and pp. 242-43 note.


Ibn Ajibah, Mi'rāj, al-muraqabah (rubric 13), trans. J.-L. Michon, L'Autobiographie, 189-90.


Many of these litanies, although composed originally by Sufis, later fell into the public domain and nourished popular piety, such as the Dala'il al-khayrat of the Moroccan Imam ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 870/1465), the Hin al-Hasīn of ibn al-Jazari (d. 833/1429), and many others, a fairly complete repertory of which was compiled by C. E. Padwick, Muslim Devotions (London: S.P.C.K., 1961).


This tradition is reported by Sidi Yūsuf al-Ajamī in his work Rihan al-qulūb, cited by O. Depont and X. Coppolani, Les Confréries religieuses musulmanes (Algiers: A. Jourdan, 1897) 370-72.


The Khalwati teaching is recorded, particularly, in the Fahrasah (Book of Succor) of Sī Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Sanūsī (d. 1276/1869), founder of the Sanusiyyah tariqah, whose politico-religious authority rapidly spread to Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and the Sudan. See L. Marabouts et Khouans Rinn (Algiers: A. Jourdan, 1884) 295-99, and the table of the seven degrees leading to perfection, pp. 300-301.


See Kitab 'awārif al-ma'arif (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-hadithah, 1358/1939), especially chaps. 26-28, which treat the merits and the modalities of this retreat called "arba 'īniyyah" (the "quarantine").


Mizān al-'amal, cited by A. J. Wensinck, La Pensée de Ghazzālī, 144.


Ihyi' ulūm al-din, chap. III, 16-17, cited by G. C. Anawati and L. Gardet, La Mystique musulmane ( Paris: J. Vrin, 1961) 277.


F. Schuon, Dimensions of Islam, chap. 9, "Earthly Concomitances of the Love of God." "The man who 'loves God'... is one who dwells in... the 'inward dimension' ... the domain of unity, synthesis and permanence."


Ali Hassan Abdel-Kader, The Life, Personality and Writings of Al-Junayd, Gibb Memorial Series 22 ( London: Luzac, 1962) 57 (Arabic text), 178 (English translation): "This, then, is the highest stage of the True realization of the Unity of God in which the worshipper who maintains this unity loses his individuality (dhahab huwa)."


Dermenghem, L'Eloge du vin.