Jihad and Traditional Islamic Consciousness – Part Four

S.A. Schleifer

For Ibn Khaldun, even the shift in Muslim military tactics in the late Ummayed period away from the closed formation employed in the earliest battles of Islam (despite the pre-Islamic Arab tradition of attack and , withdrawal) was a sign that the spirit of jihad had dissipated; the closed formation is most suitable “for men willing to die in jihad, because they wished to prove their endurance and they were very firm in their belief.

The closed formation is the fighting technique most suitable for one willing to die.”50

By the 9th century, salaried guards, largely made up of slaves – at first Turks and Sudanese and later, complements of Slavs, Greeks, Georgians and Armenians- had come to constitute the standing army of the Muslim state (although according to hadith, of all categories of able-bodied men in the Muslim community, slaves were the least qualified to engage in jihad “51”) supplemented by the small, private mercenary armies maintained by . individual amirs.”52″The use of mercenaries, as such, in jihad is more offensive to the juridical understanding than the use of slaves.”53″

Commenting on the nature of Muslim military organization on the eve of the Crusades, Gibb observes: “Few students of the Crusades will need to be reminded that the Muslim nation-in-arms had long since ceased to be. “54” 
But the sense of jihad as an individual duty regardless of the juridical responsibility of the Muslim ruler to lead jihad lingered on, particularly on the frontires of Islam where circumstances fit the juridical definition of jihad as an obligatory fard’ayn.

The chronicles record the appearance on the battle-field of volunteers. even under the Ummayads, and still more so at the time of the Abbasid dynasties. Whenever the frontier cities of Islam were attacked it was not the army of the caliph but the local inhabitants, to a man, who fought to defend the territory. And when the caliph was unwilling or unable to take action to relieve the beseiged cities, individual Muslims living far from the scene of fighting would send assistance in men and materials to their brethren defending the frontiers”.55″

By the time of Salah ad-Din even the remnants of the old militia organization of Syria had fallen into such disuse that their last lingering role, as auxiliary forces, had been taken over by the volunteers – muttawwia for jihad.”56″ And if the volunteers played a minimal military role as foot-soldiers in field campaigns until Salah ad-Din’s time, it was most likely because the phenomenon of mujahadin in the strict ethical sense of the word was distrusted by the typical Muslim ruler.”57″
However, by the mid-12th century (the time of Nur ad-Din Ibn Zanki and Salah ad-Din [SaladinJ), we read in Ibn Q,alanisi’s Chronicle not only of appeals to amirs to join in jihad against the Crusaders but of proclamations to the population as a whole:

. . . calling upon those who had undertaken to engage in the Holy War and upon the volunteer bands from both the men of the city and strangers to equip themselves and prepare to wage a struggle with the Franks, the upholders of polytheism and heresy.”58″

The Chronicles are not clear as to who exactly are these volunteers, and in particular, the strangers among them. Certainly, a spiritual elite: beyond the invaded district or beseiged city, jihad is not fard’ ayn and men or tribes of warrior nature could find employment in the ranks of Islam’s standing armies. Al-Qalanisi provides a hint in his description of turmoil in the Sultan’s mosque in Bagdad in the early 12th century when the clamour and crise of sufis who had to invaded the mosque called,for a jihad to rescue the victims of Crusader offensives mar the spectacular arrival in the city of caliph’s wife.”59″

What is involved here is a historic junction of two institutions, the mercenary army of the Islamic state system and the emerging institutional expression of lasazenwuf, that share a common origin in history – the Prophet’s Community-in-arms.

The lariqa (plural, turuq) both as a spiritual Way (a method; literally, a path) and as an institutional expression of any particular branch of the Path as a spiritual fraternity or order, invariably traces its initiatory inheritance of method and grace (baraka) and thus its spiritual legitimacy back to the Prophet Muhammad via Sayedna ‘Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet and the last of the Rashidun caliphs. “60”

What most characterizes ‘Ali in the sunni perspective is his role as the Prophet’s most exemplary mujahid and as the epitome, after the Prophet, of pious chivalry.

One of the first and youngest of the original Meccan converts, ‘Ali served as a decoy for the Prophet’s escape to Medina and he accompanied the Prophet in all of the critical set-piece battles, and nearly all his expeditions. His courage became legendary. He was the “Lion of Islam.” He slew many Meccans at Badr, received sixteen wounds at Uhud, and protected the Prophet at al-Khandak. ‘Ali was honoured by the Prophet, with the standard at the storming of Khaibar, and with the double-bladed sword, dhu’l fikar. Displayed by the Abbasid caliphs as a relic, it became the symbolic if not the actual model for thousands upon thousands of Muslim swords finely inscribed, “There is no nobler knight than ‘Ali; there is no sword like dhu’l fMar.”61”

At the same time the canonic collection of hadith stresses his spiritual dimension, his austerities in the practice of the greatest jihad, and his indifference to wealth. He is closely associated in both hadith and the early biographies of the Prophet with the ahl al-suffa, a large group of disciples (that included some of the Prophet’s closest companions and ultimate transmitters of hadith) who lived in the covered portico of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, where they spent their time under the direction of the Prophet in special study and worship unless ordered into battle. They were fighting contemplatives, believed to be among those described by the Qur’an as “Men whom neither merchandise nor sale beguileth from Remembrance of Allah and constancy in prayer and paying to the poor their due.”62”

They have served as models of piety and spiritual cultivation for generations of Muslims.

The Sufi sheikhs describe tasawwuf as the unnamed spiritual aptitude and superogatory practices of the Prophet and his earliest companions but they identify in particular with the ahl al-suffa, several of whom figure prominently both in the silsila (chain or initiatory line) of the turuq and in the histories of the Prophet’s military expeditions.

What there is of a recorded history of institutional Sufism sustains this
image of origin as fighting contemplatives. The Prophet is reported to have declared in a hadith that condemns celibacy (but not the contemplative dimension of monasticism) that, “the wandering life of the devotee among my people is jihad in God’s path.”63″ Accordingly, the origin of the Sufi zawiya (meeting place or communallcentre) is not to be found in the Christian monastery or convent but in the ribat – a fortress or advance communication post built at exposed points on the frontiers of daral-Islam or along the sea coast, to resist the enemy and signal a warning of their approach .”64” The “first stage”lof jihad is classified as murabata – serving on the frontiers (as is the “constant vigilance” against the nafs in the terminology of tasawwuf and the greater jihad) – kept by the “proven ones” in the Qur’anic passage extolling those who serve. “65”

The same idea of an Order of Battle appears in the stages of the Greater Jihad in which spiritual struggle is joined to overcome and transform the condition of al-nafs al-ammara — the uncontrollable soul or “the soul prone to evil” – into al-nafs al-lawama (“the self-accusing soul” or the soul as conscience) and, in turn, into the highest condition, al-nafs al-mutma’inna (“the soul at rest”); the language and description of these conditions being derived directly from the Qur’an.”66″

The ribat was simultaneously a military and religious establishment built by pious individuals or by the state and staffed by volunteers for jihad, who spent their time in military training and devotional exercises under the direction of a spiritual guide or sheikh (who served as military commander of the ribat), preparing themselves for martyrdom.

The Chronicles report the existance of a ribat as early as the 8th century or the island of’ Abbadan in the Persian Gulf, as well as others in Khurasan, it North Africa, and on the frontiers with Byzantium. At ‘Abbadan the families of the murabitun lived inside the fortress; elsewhere, they lived in at compound or village adjacent to the ribat.

It is most likely here that the disciplined, hierarchical, “authoritarian’ relationship between the Sufi disciple and his guide led to the development of the tariqa as a militant institution in which the sheikh commanded force engaged in both outward and inward battle.

According to Shah Wali’Allah the turban is bestowed as a sign o initiation in the tariqa in imitation of the Prophet whowrappeda turbal around the head of Abd-ar-Rahman bin Auf, upon appointing him commander of the army. There are reports that the dancing form of dhikr developed here, in the tribal war dances of the Arabian mujahadin, and the loudly recited dhikr has been described in the poetry of the Sufis as “war cry against infidelity and heedlessness.”64”

The late 9th century Sufi al Junaid, considered to be the decisive link in the chain of teachers who connect the most orthodox turuq back to the Prophet and his companions, is described in Attar’s biography of the awliya (the “saints”) as a vigorous mujahid”67 of his time, as was the early 9th century Ascetic of Nishapur, Ahmed Ibn Harb.”68″

With the extension of the frontiers of dar-al-Islam beyond Persia and the eastern Mediterranean, the military aspect of the early ribat ceased to b functional. But the idea of a centre for superogatory service and spiritual development under the discipline and guidance of a sheikh survived, along with the concept of the greater jihad. The inward (and in an esoteric sense more real) struggle continued to retain for the Sufi all of the combative” imagery of its most outward occasional form, and it developed into a system tariq al mujahida, and first station for almost all other subsequent systems E the initiatory Way of purification.”69″

Thus Abdul-Qadar Gilani, the 12th century “Saint of Baghdad” (whose life and thought inspired one of the great classic orders, the Qadiri tariqa), speaks of believers who persist in a spiritual jihad up to the point of dead meeting Allah ” . . . with drawn sword besmeared with the blood of his se and his desires.”70″

The inward jihad is simultaneously a continuous struggle until the moment of death that the believer wages “in this world every day, every hour and every moment,” and the first and fundamental stage of the rnaqamat (stages or stations) to be transcended at another level of meaning in the technical vocabulary of tasawwuf, in the spiritual ascent of the adept towards illumination and knowledge of God.”71″

The understanding of jihad as a first station also becomes the most accessible method for developing the sense of relationship between outward practice and inward meaning that is intrinsic (as noted earlier, by virtue of Qur’anic usage in defining Allah’s Unity) in Islamic consciousness, and a running theme through the post-Prophetic summa of traditional Islamic thought, al-Ghazali’s ihya `ulum ad-din: “. . . every act of worship is possessed of an outward form and an inner (secret), an external husk and internal pith. “72”

The ihya is devoted entirely to developing that understanding and it was viewed, in the words of the 12th century mystic ‘Ain al-Qudat as the
textbook of the “science of jihad . . . from beginning to end.”73” The need for systems, “science”, and increasingly elaborate explanation was seen not as “progress” but as necessary compensation for the falling away of spiritual grace that had accrued to the Prophet’s community by virtue of the Prophet.”74″

Far from the frontiers, and particularly in the cities, the atrophied military function of the ribat was also supplemented but never entirely displaced by alternative superogatory forms of service, such as providing hospitality to the traveller. The accounts of Ibn Jubayr, who travelled in the Near East during the reign of Saladin, and still later, Ibn Batuta, read at times like a Badaeker’s guide to Sufi hospices.”75″

In North Africa, where military confrontation between Islam and the West remained constant up until the modern period, the ribat retained its dual character. With the outward transformation of the tariqa as a Way into an institution still actively associated with the concept of ribat, the leadership of ribat, the leadership of 15th century Moroccan resistance to the Portuguese invasion was openly assumed by the sheikhs of the shadhiliyya tariqa (most notably by al Jazuli, author of that extraordinary litany of Blessings upon the Prophet, dala’l al-khairaat,which perhaps remains to this day the best selling book in the Arab world after the Qur’an) or be worldly rulers closely identified with one another of the turuq.”76″

This continuous Sufi assocation with jihad as qital is preserved in the word marabut to describe a holy man in northern and western Africa, and is derived from murabit, the inhabitant of a ribat.

Along the frontiers of Central Asia the entire phase of ascendent Turkish tribal militance – the ghazi states from Mahmud of Ghazna to the Ottomans – can be understood as a Sufi-guided epoch, “77” just as popular Egyptian resistance to the Seventh Crusade was inspired by a Rifa’i disciple. Sheik Ahmed al-Badawi, who formed what was to become the most popular “rustic” tariqa in_Egypt as a jihad-ist or ghazi type of association.

Three luminaries of tasawwuf in Egypt, the North African Sheikh Abu Hassan as-Shadhili, his son-in-law and disciple Sheikh Ibrahim Dessouki. and Sheikh al-Qanawwi reportedly, fought together against the Crusaders at the decisive battle of Mansura.”78″

South of the Sahara where the frontier was shared with animist Africa, the turuq played the same militant role as the ghazi states of Central Asia. The Fulani jihad which finally swept across West Africa in the late 18th century was led by a Qadariyya sheikh and had been prepared by generation of Qadariyya activity in the area.

With the quickening of modern Western colonial expansion ill the 19th century and the generally rapid collapse of local Muslim government in nearlyall of these encounters, the importance of jihad became paramount as the turuq invariably assumed the leadership of the doomed Muslim Resistance – the Naqshabandiyya in the Caucasus, the Qadariyya and Darqawiyya in Algeria and Morocco, the Tijaniyya in West Africa, the Senussiyya in Libya.”79″

This resistance, played out on what could be categorized as a Muslirll stage, bare at the tragic finale of nearly any other actors, was only possible at all because the necessary tension required for the turuq to attempt, jihad against the outrageous odds they faced had been sustained for centuries on a doctrinal plane.

For just as the juridico-political description had reduced jihad far earlier to its most outward domain, there is always a danger in esotericism of isolating the inward aspect, the way of mujahada, from the outward aspect and thereby, from a different perspective, depriving the men of mujahada of the ethical responsibility to wage jihad in its outward forms.

In the work of the 13th century poet Jalal ud-Din Rumi (whose Mathnawi, a poetic commentary upon Qur’an and hadith, assumed almost canonic status first among the Sufi-guided ghazis of the frontier and in time within the entire literary domain of Ottoman and Persian cultures), the tension connecting the two most distant dimensions of jihad is sustained in its entirety to ethical advantage.

In one of the tales of the Mathnawi an arrogant Sufi, misguided by the, adulation of the masses for his supposed accomplishments as a spiritual warrior, sets out in a spirit of contempt for the “lesser jihad” to join the troops in order to ” . . . show my valour, outwardly too.” But it is precisely in a series of humilating experiences while on the “lesser jihad” exposing the Sufi as a coward, that the unreality of his spiritual claims are also exposed .”80″

Rumi is suggesting that the truth or illusion of personal spiritual progress can only be tested by moral confrontation in the community of men and in defense of the community of Islam. Conversely, in an accompanying tale, The Great Warfare” of a heroic warrior who flees the rigours of attempted spiritual struggle for the ease of the battlefield, Rumi argues that man’s potential for egoism, heroics and grand gesture can also be “food” for the carnal soul.”81″Thus, in waging jihad (and by implication all outward struggle to enjoin good in the community of Islam), the warrior (and by extension, all believers) risks forgetting that this world (“the body,” in Rumi’s tale) is only an instrument for the spirit; external sacrifice in socio-political struggle can come an evasion of the need to personally confront one’s own self-serving passions and greed in the far more difficult spiritual struggle for the “greater jiad.” The need to simultaneously synthesize the requirements of both aspects of jihad is resolved in the concept of futuwwa – pious chivalry -which begins to emerge as a collective concept in the 8th century. “82”

Because this synthesis is in fact a re-synthesis, its origin in the person of the Prophet, whose identity as a fata (a young, noble, pious knight, from which the word futuwwa as concept and fityan are derived) pre-dates Revelation. In his youth, the Prophet entered into an association of young men (fityan) organized by his Uncle Zubayr, pledged to aid the oppressed and weak of Mecca regardless of their tribal status, and not to abandon their cause until justice was done.

The fata in pre-Islamic Arabia was a chivalrous young man, valiant and noble in battle. In the Prophet’s example these ethical virtues transcended the tribe, which was the respository of religion; the piety and ethical standards were intensely personal and the source of that piety we can only assume drawn from the residual hanif Arabian tradition “83”suggested by the Qur’anic description of the youthful sleepers in the cave, described as fitya.”84″

According to the earliest sira literature, the Prophet renewed his pledge as a fata after the event of Revelation, reconfirming the importance to him of that personal commitment: “I have participated in it and I am not prepared to give up that privilege even against a herd of camels; if somebody should appeal to me even today, by virtue of that pledge, I shall hurry to his help.”85”

Thus Qushayri, who devotes an entire chapter of his Risala to the futuwwa, declared: “The fata is he who has no enemy, and who does not care whether he is with a Friend or an infidel; and Muhammad was the perfect fata, for on the Day of judgement everybody will say `I’, but he will say `My community.”86”

The inheritor of this rank from the Prophet in traditional Islamic consciousness is ‘Ali, and it is as the model of futuwwa that ‘All is most beloved in specifically sunni consciousness, since this mode does not threaten to appropriate the prophetic characteristics of the Prophet as is the case in shia’ consciousness.

But the appeal of this early sunni perception of ‘Ali as the model for futuwwa (along with the perception of ‘Ali as standard bearer in both jihad and the greater jihad) to the shia’-coloured consciousness of the turbulent urban masses in the centuries of Abbasid power must have been extraordinary and a major factor in winning them over to sunni orthodoxy.”87″

On an institutional plane this was reflected by the gradual integration of the craft guilds (frequently shia’ in origin) and the ‘ayyan (the armed urban bands of youth in the earliest capital cities of Islam that appear to have vacillated between a voluntary police-militia role and the typical criminality of street gangs) within the social and spiritual sphere of the emerging institutional life of the turuq.”88″

The doctrine of futuwwa as it emerges and matures in the same period at one and the same time embraces all of the strands of this social integration and deepens the process, extending it through the social fabric of Pre-Modern Islam.

The craft guilds as “economic units” were sacralized by the concept of futuwwa which characterizes the jihad as vocation, implicit in the frequently quoted canonic hadith appearing in one of the most popular collections of medieval (13th century) Islam:

Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.”89″

The critical concept here is ihsan which in the above hadith means “proficiency” or “perfection” or “mastery,” and which, in still another hadith from the same popular collection is used by the Prophet in a way that approximates what the commentators would call “sincerity,” but in the sense indicated by the definition of ihsan given by the Prophet in this latter hadith:

It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.” 90″

In other words, “sincerity” in the traditional sense of sincerity that does things for the sake of God alone and not for outer appearance or convention. The commentators also translate ihsan as “right action” or “the spiritual virtues.”

The concept of the futuwwa of the craft guilds synthesized these two meanings, whereby the perfection of their work for which the craftsmen strived under the tutelage of a master was not for his own sake (a livelihood can be made with shabby goods) but the sake of God and thus a Way for the perfection of his soul.”91″ Sheikh Ahmad ar-Rifa’i, founder of one of the earliest and most enduring of the turuq, is reported to have said, “Futuwwa means working for God’s sake, not for any reward”.”92″

It can then be suggested that futuwwa could penetrate into such seemingly ruthless domains as traditional parade ground and palace not only because of its chivalrous challenge to be truly noble and brave but also for its promise of ma’rifa (the intuitive knowledge of God) in the perfection of one’s craft.

Indeed, the traditional Muslim military manuals perceive of weaponry as a sacred inheritance. Before undertaking a precise, matter-of-fact discussion of the uses of the bow and arrow or even alluding to the legal duties of the jihad, a medieval military manual for archers first discloses that the model of the Arab bow, the tool with which the archer will perfect himself, was sent down to Adam from Paradise, and that the first to make the Arab bow was Ibrahim (Abraham) who made one for each of his sons Isma’il and Isaac. “93”The model for the deportment of the archer in carrying the bow and arrow is the Prophet, who acquired his knowledge when Gabriel appeared before him on the day of the battle perfectly parallels the Qur’an’s historiography of Revelation – the fundamental Descent: Adam is the first prophet and first Muslim as a state of nature; Ibrahim is the first self-conscious Muslim and first Prophet of the semitic cycle; Muhammad revives Ibrahimaic religion by virtue of Revelation, and is the seal of Prophets.”95″

This process of sacralization is particularly clear in the command to the archer to walk barefoot towards his target when searching for fallen arrows, since the Prophet described the course between the archer and his aim as a “strip of paradise.” The unmentioned worldly benefit will be that the barefoot archer will not break any “snaked” (slightly buried) arrows hidden from sight, but will be able to feel them with his foot.”

Still later, in the elaboration of this theme in an Ottoman futuwwa manual, the archer understands the entire exercise as spiritual striving; his target is ma’rifa and the bow, its grip, and the devotion with which he perfects his craft are all vehicles, once he is initiated into the archers’ guild, of the knowledge. “97”

Before the close of the 12th century the Abbasid caliph Nasir had created a formal order of knighthood on futuwwa lines, under the guidance of Sheikh Abu Hafs as-Suhrawardi, who guided the nobles that the caliph wished to honour. Abu Hafs was the author of the Sufi classic, Awarif, al-ma’arif, but it is in his uncle’s work, Sheikh Abu an-Najib’s Kitab ‘adab al-muridin, that we can detect an aristocratic futuwwa code of conduct for the “associates” of the tariqa who are allowed “ruksas” or compensations because of their worldly obligations from the stricter austerities of the tariqa.”98″

The associate is allowed to possess an estate or rely on any other legal regular income but he must distribute the income to public charities taking only enough necessary to maintain his family for a year.

Modesty and asceticism is commended but the associate is allowed to practice courtly etiquette, to joke, to embrace friends, to accept political leadership, to associate with sultans and to visit them, to watch amusements as long as the amusement is in itself not forbidden by shari’a, to keep company with young men and to deal however roughly as may be necessary with riffraff; even to boast of merit, but only as long as the intention is to reveal to others the favours that God bestows:

One should try not to get angry for one’s own rights; rather, if one gets angry, it should be out of jealousy for the rights of God and of one’s brethren. It is said that the Prophet never sought to take revenge for a wrong done to him, but only took revenge on those who had violated the prohibitions of God . . . Love for the sake of God and hate for the sake of God are amongst the firmest ties of the faith. It is obligatory, within the limits of capability, to commend the good and forbid evil.”99″

The caliph’s vision was of a spiritually renewed aristocracy of the political military elite that he attempted to draw into the futuwwa linked through his own person to the turuq and popular futuwwa of Baghdad, and the chronicles indicate that he exhorted the princes of the whole Muslim East to enrol in the futuwwa and develop its organization in their respective states. “100” Nasir’s vision of a revived universal caliphate via a cosmopolitan and aristocratic order of pious chivalry that would reintegrate the effective power of sunni Islam, drained and dispersed by the petty dynasty state system seems to have been an almost administrative mirror of the motivating vision of Salah ad-Din, whose last years as sultan briefly overlap with the first years of Nasir’s reign.

The elements of possible influence are all in place – an intense orthodox sunni identity, attachment to and support for the turuq, and a vision of re-establishing the unity of the Muslims on the basis of a revived Abbasid caliphate – but above all in the very person of Salah ad-Din as the personification in his time of pious chivalry.”101″

Approaching the same goal from opposite directions, there is also an extraordinary parallel between the ethically inspired but in spiritual terms practical politics that al-Ghazali offered more than a century earlier in his Nasihat al-muluk, and Nasir’s visionary politics of a practical spirituality.

Salah ad-Din’s heirs entered Nasir’s futuwwa and the Order lived on among the Syrian and Egyptian Mamluks as a chivalrous aristocracy until the 15th century. On the popular level it spread throughout Central Asia, inspiring the ghazi states, and in this form as futuwwa, tasawwuf also penetrated the very core of the Turkish craft guilds. “102”

The revival of a cosmopolitan spiritual community that was part of Nasir’s vision was to be fulfilled by the futuwwa-guiding turuq which were to span the entire Muslim world. The rest of the vision, a revived universal sunni caliphate, was nearly realized by the Ottoman state, also heir of Nasir’s futuwwa by virtue of its own origin as a ghazi state.

These two aspects of futuwwa realization on the spiritual and political
planes were in practical terms one – the triumph of the Ottoman state as
beneficiary and patron to the flowering of a social order sacralized by the
doctrine and institutions of the Sufis, a flowering in the domain of jihad that was symbolized by the Janissaries, a futuwwa by necessity, chaplained by the Bektashiyya and the terror of dar-al-harb. The source of that unity was futuwwa doctrine.

The focus of this doctrine in the combative settings of jihad is amplified by Rumi, who returns to it several times in the Mathnawi, most notably to meditate upon the meaning of a singular incident on the battlefield:

‘All has gained the upper hand in combat with an infidel and is about to slay him when the infidel spits into ‘All’s face. ‘All puts his sword away; the infidel (who was certain he would die) is astounded and asks ‘All for an explanation. ‘All replies.,

I am wielding the sword for God’s sake. I am the servant of God, I am not under the command of the body. I am the Lion of God, I am not the lion of passion; my deeds bear witness to my religion. “103”

‘Ali is angered; he puts his sword away, since the kill the infidel now would mean at least in part to kill him out of anger and not solely for the sake of God.

In war I am [manifesting the truth of] ‘thou didst not throw when thou threwest.’ I am [but] as the sword, and the wielder is the [Divine] Sun.

Since [the thought of something] other than God has intervened, it behooves [me] to sheathe my sword.

That my name may be `he loves for God’s sake,’ that my desire may be `he hates for God’s sake,’

That my generosity may be `he gives for God’s sake,’ that my being may be `he withholds for God’s sake.”104″

‘Ali’s anger, his pride of self, has interrupted his continuous Remembrance of God; the Presence is veiled and ‘All no longer is fighting as literal instrument of God, so he stops. ‘All also explains his act to the infidel as one of divinely inspired mercy, an opportunity to witness Divine qualities and have faith as a compensation for the infidel’s own inspired sin, as it were, of spitting in ‘Ali’s face, just as the magicians’ sin of denying Moses and practicing magic led them to the trial before Pharaoh, and thus to faith in God.

‘Ali tells the infidel of still another extraordinary event: how the Prophet tells ‘Ali’s servant that it is his destiny to slay ‘Ali. The servant comes to ‘Ali and pleads that ‘Ali kill him to prevent such a crime. ‘Ali refuses, since the Prophet has foretold Divine Will, which ‘Ali totally accepts. For what reason, then, is retaliation (the shari’a punishment of murder by death) sanctioned in Islam? ‘Ali replies, … from God, too . . . and that is a hidden mystery.”‘ But, ‘Ali declared, when God takes offence at His own act (by punishing that which He willed), mankind benefits from His taking offence, as when God abrogates earlier Revelations with new ones.”105″

Rumi then returns to his earlier theme:

The Prince of the Faithful said to that youth, `In the hour of battle, O knight,
When thou didst spit on my face my fleshly self was aroused and my good disposition was corrupted.
Half (of my fighting) came to be for God’s sake, and half (for) idle passion; in God’s affair partnership is not allowable. Thou art limned by the hand of the Lord, thou art God’s (work), thou art not made by me. Break God’s image, (but only) by God’s command; cast (a stone) at the Beloved’s glass (but only) the Beloved’s stone.”106″

The infidel, so awed by this state of grace, embraces Islam on the spot and so do nearly fifty of his tribe.

By the sword of clemency he (‘Ali) redeemed so many throats of such a multitude from the sword. The sword of clemency is sharper than the sword of iron – nay, it is more productive of victory than a hundred armies.’ 107″

Rumi compares ‘Ali to the Prophet, who fought solely at God’s command and in utter indifference to dominion of the world and he goes on to define ‘Ali’s role:

Outwardly he strives after power and authority, (but only) that he may show to princes the (right) way and judgement;

That he may give another spirit to the Princedom; that he may give fruit to the palm-tree of the Caliphate.”108″

The theme of the poem is stated in its very first line; “Learn how to act sincerely from ‘Ali “- in the Qur’anic sense of sincerity: to act, according to the commentary, for God’s sake alone (which recalls Sheikh Ahmed Rifai’s very definition of futuwwa and the equivalent understanding of sincerity (ihsan) in its most vocational sense in the futuwwa of the guilds).

The chivalry that ‘Ali displays is not sentimental, but a rigorous insistence on maintaining the spiritual and ethical content of his actions in the domain of war, while complying at all times with shari’a which he accepts as the mysterious given, for Man to implement and, by definition, benefit from. But the source of the spiritual and ethical content of his actions comes from constant Remembrance of God, in that by constant Remembrance he becomes a vehicle or instrument of God.

Rumi is saying: Jihad can only be waged by constant waging of the greater jihad; without spiritual-ethical content, the jihad becomes an instrument for ego and rebellious masquerading in the hypocritical soul as fighters for the sake of God.

In the domain of political thought this doctrine might be classified as a theory of “the spiritually correct political action” (in contrast to more outward and immediately moralizing criteria which from this perspective are concepts that lend themselves in struggle too easily, to dangerous deceptions and illusions of righteousness).

But it is perhaps in Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani’s concept of the duty of the valiant warriors against the carnal soul illuminated and expanded as “spiritual guardians (of the) city” that the Islamic basis for ethical content in political action is most graphically presented.

Gilani’s “spiritual guardians” enter “the market place” with “their hearts filled on account of God, the Mighty, the Glorious, with mercy for the people in it . . . seeking the protection of God and intercession for its people [of the market place] in an attitude of affection and mercy. So their hearts burn to seek their benefit and to prevent their loss. . . (as) ambassadors and executors of good, sweet of expression, guides, rightly-guided people and spiritual instructors.”109”

Transformed into an elaborate cosmopolitan corporate organization the turuq inspired the revival of a spiritual and thus ethical dimension within the institutions of holy war, and institutionalised the internal jihad on a social plane that was “political” in relation to the state by moral influence; influential by virtue of a base rooted in the intentions of strictly personal spiritual concerns that generated centres for the social integration and education of the urban man and woman in the essentials of religious life. As spiritual coordinates both for pious rulers and for popular movements counter-balancing oppressive rule: as source of doctrine and guidance for the guild system that provided a profound measure of vocational dignity and social security in ordinary economic life, and centres of practical social benefit for the community, caring for the sick and the poor and offering hospitality and social integration for the traveller, the turuq practiced a politics of anti-politics, sabil`Allah.


1. H. A. R. Gibb, “Al Mawardi’s Theory…,” p. 154 (see Footnote 14, Introduction).

2. Ibid. pp. 153-155; Yusuf Ibish, “The Political Doctrine of al-Baqillani, pp. 24-25 (see Footnote 14. in Introduction, above).

3. Edward Lane, The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Everyman’s Library (London: Dent. 1966, reprint of 1860 edition), pp. 86-87. For mention of the use of the word “sword” in 19th century Cairo mosques, see Nabil A. Faris and Robert Potter Elmer, translators and editors, Arab Archery, “A Book the Excellence of the Bow and Arrow (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945), p. 9.

4. Gibb, “An Interpretation of Islamic History,” in Shaw and Polk, eds., Studies…,”p. 5.

5. Gibb, “The Evaluation of Government in Early Islam,” in Studies…,” pp. 34-36.

6. Bernard Lewis, “Islamic Concepts of Revolution, in P.J. Vatikiotis, ed., Revolution in the Middle East (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1972) pp. 30-31.

7. Gibb, “An Interpretation,” pp. 7-9; SEI, s.v. “Shia,” “Khawarij.”

8. Gibb, “Religion and Politics in Christianity and Islam,” in J.H. Poretor, ed., Islam and International Relations (London: Pall Mall Press, 1965), pp. 6-7.

9. Hamidullah, Muslim Conduct of State, pp. 63-66; Khadduri, War and Peace…, pp. 42-48.

10. Hamidullah, Ibid. p.168.

11. Sarakhsi, cited by Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra, “The Jihad (Striving)…, “pp. 54-55 (see Footnote 25, Ch. 1.).

12. Ibid.

13. Khadduri, War and Peace…, pp. 81-82; see discussion by the 9th c. Maliki jurist Ibn Abi Zayd of Qayrowan, cited by Johan Alden Williams, ed., Themes of Islamic Civilisation (Berkely; University of California Press, 1971), pp. 266-267.

14. Khadduri, War and Peace… pp. 44-48.

15. Hamidullah, The Muslim Conduct of State, p. 176.

16. Hamidullah, ibid., pp. 176-179; Khadduri. War and Peace…, pp. 14-18.

17. Ibn Rushd, in R. Peters, f had in Medieval and Modern Islam, pp. 21-23 (see footnote 13, Introduction).

18. Qur’an VIII:61.

19. Qur’an IX:5, IV:29.

20. Ibn Rushd, in Peters, Jihad… pp. 21-25.

21. Sahih Muslim, Book XVIII, Ch. DCCIV (4294), and discussed by Hamidullah in Muslim Conduct of State, p. 311.

22. Ibn Rushd, in Peters, jihad…, pp. 24-25; Hamidullah, ibid., p. 311.

23. Ibn Rushd, in ibbid., pp. 19-20.

24. See list of al-Bagillani’s qualities of the Imam in Ibish, pp, 97-100. Two of the five conditions are directly concerned with warfare. The same two conditions appear in al-Mawardi’s list of seven conditions. In additions, five of the ten items listed by al-Mawardi as things incumbent “upon the Imam as matter of interest” directly involve uses of armed coercive power. See selection from al-Mawardi, “The Governing Statutes,” in Williams, ed. (and trans.), Themes of1slamic Civilisation, pp. 85-887.

25. Gibb, “Religion and Politics…,” pp. 6-7.

26. Gibb, “An Interpretation…,” pp. 7-8.

27. SEl. s.v. “Khawarij.” The Quraish were the leading tribe of Mecca; the Prophet was of the Quraish and he specified according to canonic hadith that the highest command in the community should remain with the Quraish. One of the reasons for this condition is that the Qur’an was transmitted in the dialect of the Quraish.

28. Salem, Political Theory and Institutions of the Khawarij, pp. 82-83.

29. Ibid., p. 83.

30. AI-Mawardi, Droit public Musulman: le Droit du Califat, L. Ostrogog, trans. (Paris: Leroux, 1901), I, p. 87.

31. Salem, op. cit., pp. 55, 85; Ibish, The political Doctrine of al-Baqillani, pp. 94-95; Al-Mawardi, ibid., I, pp. 109-112.

32. The Khawarij consistently refused to be called al-mariq (dissenters) because they meant to be reformers not merely schismatic.” Salem, op. cit., p. 26.

33. Based on canonic hadith transmitted by al-Bukhari and Muslim, cited by an-Nawawi, Forty Hadith, pp. 5859.

34. SEI, s.v. “Khawarij.”

35. Salem, op. cit., pp. 90-91, for discussion of the doctrine of isti’rad.

36. Muslim, Mishkat, XVI1, Ch. I.

37. Khadduri, War and Peace…, p. 74.

38. Mishkat, XYIII, Ch. I.

39. Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Mishkat, XVII, Ch. 1

40. Ibn Hambal, cited by H. Laoust, “Ahmed b. Hambal,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1st. ed., 1965.

41. Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah, Mishkat, XVIII, Ch. II.

42. An-Nawawi, Riyadh as-salihin. Gardens of the Righteous, M. Z. Khan, trans: (London: Curzon, 1975), p. 48.

43. Hamidullah, Muslim Conduct of State, pp. 64-66.

44. Ibish, op. cit. p. 103.

45. L. Gardet, “Fasik,” in Enc. Islam,

46. Ibish, op. cit. pp. 104-105.

47. Cited by Gibb, in “Al-Mawardi’s Theory…,” p. 161.

48. This is but the other side of the coin of the concept of “Islamic Conformism.” To the degree wrongdoing is public is to the degree the wrongdoer sins against his fellow man(by corrupt example, by seductive intention, by defiance of community) as well as he sins against God. Examination of the fikr literature on the hadd (unalterable punishment prescribed by shari’a) and the hadith dealing with the hadd penalties will bear out the above analysis not to mention, as more immediately relevant to this study, the ‘ulama’s discrimination between the ruler as public fasiq or private fasiq.

49. Ibn jama’s, Emancipated Judgement in the Government of Muslims,” in Williams, Themes of Islamic Civilization, pp. 90-94. Ibn Taimiyya, Private and Public Law in Islam, Omar A. Farruhk, trans. (Beirut: Khayats, 1966). pp. 187-188, 192.

50. A1 Ghazali, Nasihat al-muluk, F.R.C. Bayley, trans., Ghazali’s Book of Counsel for Kings (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2nd ed.

51. Reuben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), pp. 417-421: V.J. Preey, “Warfare”, in The Cambridge History of Islam, P.M. Holt, K.S. Lambton, and B. Lewis, eds. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970) pp. 822-824; Edward Bosworth, “Armies of the Prophet,” in B. Lewis, ed., Islam and the Arab World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), pp. 204-205.

52. Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, II, p. 79.

53. Sahih Muslim, XVII, DCCL (4456, 4458) al-Hidayah, extract, s.v. “Jihad,” Hughes’ Dictionary of Islam (1885 edition).

54. Ibn Qalanisi, The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades, H.A.R. Gibb, trans (London: Luzac, 1932), p. 32; al-Hidayah, loc. cit., p. 245.

55. Al-Hidayah, ibid.

56. Bibb. “Introduction,” The Damascus Chronicle, p. 31.

57. At-Tabari and Ibn Athir, cited in Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 421.

58. Gibbn “The Armies of Saladin,” in Shaw and Polk, Studies, p. 83.

59. Ibn Qalanisi, in Gibb, The Damascus Chronicle, pp. 27, 42.

60. Ibid. p. 333.

61. Ibid., pp. 111-112.

62. SE]. x.v. “Tarikah,” Martin Lings, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, 2nd ed. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971), pp. 34-47; J. Spencer Trimingham, The Suf Orders in Islam (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 134-136. Many a silsila (line: literally, chain) includes Sayedna Abu Bakr and at least one includes Sayedna ‘Umar but the primary line to the Prophet is invariably ‘Ali. There are exceptions: tariq whose silsila is exclusively via Sayedna Abu Bakr; another, via Sayedna ‘Umar, and 18th century turuq that are indifferent to their actual silsila and claim legitimacy by their founding sheikhs’ receiving a visionary initiation directly from the Prophet. But it is the overwhelming generality that is of concern. Trimingham uses the from “ta’ifa” to describe the institutional expression of the Way but contemporary conventional use if “tariqa” in both capacities.

63. L. Veccia Vaglieri, “Abi B. Abi Talib,” and E. Mittwoch, “Dhu’I fakar,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam.

64. Qur’an XXIV:37 See Enc. Islam, “Ahl al-suffa.” Abu Harayan, Abu Dharr, Bilal, Salman al-Farisi, Abu Lubba, are among the ahl al-suffa.

65. Baghawi, Mishkat IV, Ch. III. Another version: “In every community there has been a monasticism and the monasticism of this community is jihad.” (Sarakhsi, cited by Abu Zahra in “Jihad (Striving)”.)

66. Trimingham, Suf Orders, pp. 4-5, 188; al-Mukaddasi, quoted in Guy Le Strange, ed., Palestine Under the Moslems (Beirut: Khayats Reprint, 1965), p. 23.

76. A process in thought that has been described by Lings (A Sufi Saint, pp. 42-43) as “the inevitable movement from concentrated synthesis to differential analysis [which] was largely the result of an analogous change that was taking place in human souls.”

67. Abu Zahra, op. cit., pp. 71-72; SEI, s.v. “Ribat;” Trimingham, Sufi Orders, p. 170.

68. Qur’an X1153: LXXV:2; LXXXI: (30 See also discussion in Ahmad A. Gabwash. The Religion of Islam (Cairo Gro 1977): pp. 230-232.

69. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, p. 175.

70. A. J. Arberry, trans., Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya by Farid-al-Din Attar (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), pp. 199, 210, 145.

71. AI-Hujwiri, Kashf al-Mahjub, R.A. Nicholson, trans. (London: Luzac, Gibb Memorial Trust Reprint, 1967), p. 292; Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 4-6.

72. Muhyuddin Abdul Qadir Gilani, Futuh al-Gaib: The Revelations of the Unseen, Maulvi Aftab-ud-Din Ahmed, trans. (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1972), p. 183.

73. Gilani, toe. cit., p. 182; Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 139-140.

74. Al-Ghazali, The Mysteries of Fasting, Nabil Amin Paris, translating from Ihya ‘ulum ad-Din (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1971), p. 33 See earlier reference to at-tawhid and relevant verse from Qur’an.

75. ‘Ain al-Qudat al-Hamadhani, Shakwa ‘l-gharib, as A. Sufi Martyr, A.J. Arberry, trans. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1969), p. 42.

77. H. A. R. Gibb and Harold Bowen, Islamic Society and the West, Part 2 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), pp. 179-206; Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 9-38, 234-240, 38-39. Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot estimates that by the 18th century, “every man in Cairo and probably in Egypt was a member of at least one Sufi brotherhood.” (“Ulama of Cairo,” in Scholars, Saints and Sufis, N. R. Keddie, ed.; Berkeley, University of California Press, 1972; p. 151).

78. Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 240, 84-90.

79. Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 1 1-13; Gibb and Bowen, Islamic Society and the West, pp. 181-184, 188.

80. Trimingham, Sufi Orders, p. 240; Sheikh Abdel Halim Mohmud, Al Madrassa al-Shadhliyya al-Haditha wa Immamuha Abu Hassan al-Shadhili (Cairo: Dar al-Katib at-Arabi, 1967), pp. 20-22.

81. Martin, Muslim Brotherhoods; Dunn, Resistance in the Desert (see footnote 7, intro.); Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 240-241; N.A. Ziadeh, Sanusiyah (Leiden: Brili 1958); Jamil M. Abu-Nasar, The Tyaniyya A Sufi Order and the Modern World (London Oxford University Press, 1965).

82. Jalal ud-Din Rumi, The Mathnawi, R.A. Nicholson, trans., Gibb Memorial Series IV.6 (London: Luzac, 1934), pp. 224-226.

83. Ibid. p. 228.

84. Fr. Taeschner, Futuwwa,” in Enc. Isla. See also Mickal Chodkiewics’ introduction to al-Sulami, “The Book of Sufi Chiraly (Kitab al-Futuwwa): NY. 1983.

85. W. Montgomery Watt, “Hanif,” in Enc. Islam.

86. Qur’an XVIII:9-25; Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of lslam, p. 246.

87. Ibn Hasham, cited in Hamidullah, Muslim Conduct of State, p. 62.

88. Cited in Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, p. 246.

89. “Futuwwa” in Ene. Islam; Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 24-25; H. A.R. Gibb, Saladin: Studies in Islamic History, Y. Ibish, ed. (Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, 1974), pp. 32, 41-42.

90. Discussion of `ayyan in “Futuwwa,” Enc. Islam; also, Gibb, Saladin, p. 40.

91. An-Nawawi, in Forty Hadith (footnote 99, Ch. 3); the 17th in this collection of (actually) 42 hadith. We may safely assume that the contents of this little book have been memorized by millions upon millions of Muslims over the centuries.

92. Ibid. p. 30 (hadith no. 2).

93. Sheikh Abdul Wahad Yahya (as Rene Guenon), Initiation and the Crafts (Ipswich: Golgnooza Press, 1974), reprint from, Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, VI (1938); Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Christian and Orien

tal Philosophy ofArtr (New York: Dover, 1956), Chs. V, VI. Also see relevant discussion ofsymbofsm and the process of sacralization in Seyyed Hossein Nasar, The Encounter of Man and Nature (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1968), pp. 129-136. An extended variation on the same theme occurs in still another popular saying of the Prophet, citd by Abu Zahra: “God loveth anyone who brings his work to perfection, who knows that God the Almighty watches him carefully while he is doing his work, and that he would be reckoned with, by Him. He would be requited, either for good or evil, in accordance with the quality of his work.” (“‘The Jihad; Striving”, p. 60)

94. Trimingham, Sufi Orders, p. 24.

95. Faris and Potter, Arab Archery, p. 9

96. Ibid. pp. 24-25.

97. Mishkat, XXVI, Ch. XVIIL

98. Faris and Potter, Arab Archery, p. 25.

99. Ananda K. Commaraswmay, “The Symbolism of Archery,” “Ars Islamica, X (1943), pp. 106-107, 117118.

100. Trimingham Sufi Orders, p. 14; Enc. Islam, “Futuwwa;” Menahem Milson, “Introduction” to abu anNajib, as Suhrawardi’s Kitab Adab al-Muridin (A Sufi Rule for Novices), M. Milson, trans. (Chambridge: Harvard University Press 1975), p. 17. According to medieval biographer Ibn Khalican, Sheikh Abu an-Najib asSuhrawardi was disciple of Sheikh Abdul Quadar al-Bilani.

101. As-Suhrawardi, in Milson, Suhrawardi’s Kitab, p. 81.

102. Enc. Islam, “Futuwwa”.

103. Gibb, Saladin, pp. 104-137.

104. Enc. Islam, “Futuwwa”.

105. Jalal ud-Din Rumi, in Nicholson, The Mathnawi, IV. 2, p. 205.

106. Ibid. p. 205-208.

107. Ibid. p. 208-209.

108. Ibid. p. 215-216.

109. Ibid. p. 216.

110. Ibid. p. 214.

111. Gilani, Futuh al-Gaib, pp. 194.195.

——————————————————————————————The Islamic Quarterly, London 
Fourth Quarter 1983