Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Book of Sufi Chivalry (Kitab al-Futuwwah) by Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami

The Idea of Chivalry - Futuwwa

Chivalry has often been associated with romanticised notions of the Christian Knight - a white knight, shining, who upholds to a strict moral code but never insists on others adopting this disciplined way of life. But Islamic scholars to developed their own tradition regarding chivalry. It follows a principle that Shaykh Hamza Yusuf commented on in the work of the great Maliki jurist and Sufi master Ahmed Zarruq who wrote his famous ''Principles of Sufism'':

''They have been the strictest adherents to the sacred law, but they have a wonderful principle: that is be hard on yourself and be gentle with other people.

We live in a world of insecurity - and sadly so called religious people suffer the same insecurities. As Imam Suhaib Webb mentions - people often think the strictest opinion is the best opinion - and true our Prophet PBUH has mentioned about taking the stricter opinion - but no one has ever said that you should force this opinion down on other people's throats. If you want to adopt it then subhunallah - perhaps your example and actions can inspire others to adopt this opinion after seeing the spiritual effect it has on your personality. But as Imam Webb narrates a saying from Sufyan al Thawri - the job of the jurist is to make life easy for the people - not to make it difficult.

If you want to take the difficult path then by all means take it - but don't boast about it, brag about it or make others feel small about not taking the stricter opinion.

The Sufis - the real masters of the Way who were well versed in fiqh and tasawwuf knew this. Imam Al Ghazali's Ihya is frequently commented as taking an extremely strict approach to spirituality and fiqh that requires strong discipline - but the beauty of Imam Ghazali's approach is that he does not force anyone to take this approach.

Imam Malik has said in a famous saying that:

''"He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true."''

The fact of the matter is that the Sufi path is a private one - it is not about public exhibition or showing people how religious you are. In fact Imam Al Ghazali has spoken of the virtues of anonymity and keeping a low religious profile for the sake of spiritual excellence. 

Real Sufism adds a powerful psychological and spiritual dimension that complements the legal moralism of the fiqh. As Imam Malik says, we need to combine both. Fiqh is meant to be easy - to alleviate hardships of the people - but if you wish to take a harder path to be closer to God then the Sufis have a Way to complement the Fiqh. 

In light of this I present it you the ''The Book of Sufi Chivalry - Kitab al-Futuwwa''

The description:

''Chivalry is the way of the Sufis. For the dervish, it means generosity extended to self-denial; the giving of one’s life for the sake of a friend.

THE BOOK OF SUFI CHIVALRY, an important text by al-Sulami, a Sufi saint and scholar, translated here for the first time into the English language, has been used since the tenth century as a guide to right behavior, and proposes to lead man to consciousness and perfection.

The spiritual masters whose sayings the text records are addressing their disciples, taking into account their shortcomings and potentials. The teachings bear the imprint of the masters themselves, and are related to the levels of sanctity that they attained. The multiplicity of the points of view expressed by their words and actions, is focussed on one central notion, (in Arabic: Futuwwah) that of "heroic generosity", based on the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants, who were its true expression.

Written with the help of teaching tales and quotations from the Koran and Hadith, THE BOOK OF SUFI CHIVALRY reveals the true meaning of compassion, love, friendship, generosity, hospitality and the right actions associated with these virtues as a means to individual spiritual development. Addressing the reader directly with the aim of leading him towards perfection, the text provides the aspirant of today with living guidance on the path of Sufism.''

And truly God knows best...