No God but God/A review(V)

A continuation
Aslan partiality was not only to Muhammad and Quran, but also to the Shiite sect, and specifically to the Sufi ideology, which is commonly known as Erfaniya. He did not mention that directly in his book, but it’s obvious to those who know the ideology of Erfanism (my terminology); I was one for a long time, so I should know better. In one of his quotes he said, “in fact the Quraysh regularly chose members of their own families to succeed them in position of authority because, as mentioned, it was a common belief that noble qualities were passed through the blood from one generation to next. The Quran itself repeatedly affirms the importance of blood relations (2:177,215), and endows Muhammad’s family- the Ahl Albait- with an imminent position in the Ummah, somewhat akin to that enjoyed by the families by the other prophets.” In fact, what Aslan wanted to say is that, it was not only the noble qualities that was passed in the blood, Shiite believe that knowledge is inherited in the blood as well. The verse “and He taught Adam all the names” encompasses the eternal knowledge that was exclusively Adam’s privilege among His other creations. This knowledge is then passed by blood to selected individuals whom Quran called prophets. Now according to this hypothesis; Shiites believe that this knowledge transformation is an on-going process, which did not stop with the last prophet, but continued through his linage. Of course there are many Shiite sects who have different opinions about the route of this knowledge. But what concerns us in this study is the major Shiite sect of the twelve Emams, through the bloodline of Emam Husain. This knowledge comes through revelations; it could come as dreams, as was the case with prophet Joseph, or even actual instructions handed by archangel Gabriel even after Muhammad’s death. There is no general consensus whether this revelation stopped after the disappearance of Almehdi (the twelfth Emam) or not, but regardless of that, Shiites believe that Almehdi keeps having his representatives among his own linage, through generations of Shiite communities till he finally appears, and through them knowledge keeps transferring to generations to come. Erfanies or Shiite Sufis are usually very highly educated individuals and deep thinkers. They regard the descendants of the prophet very highly and accept their favoritisms by God. Yet, they do not believe that the descendents of the prophets are the only bearers of such knowledge. Any person who seeks the path with purity and insistence should be able to reach that ultimate knowledge without the use of a mediator. Erfanies also do not take the scriptures literally, nor they care much about the standard traditional rituals, these things are considered trivialities to them. In other words, the means are not important but the final goal is what counts. And they reach their sought after goals by thawing in the love of God until one becomes united with the essence of God. They perceive life as a distorted mirror, where with love and devotion one can slowly clear this distortion, bit by bit, till the image in the mirror becomes crystal clear, and the eyes start to see the ultimate truth. And when this happens, the impossible becomes possible. And miracles become second to nature. They may not believe in myths like angles and flying horses even if they were mentioned in Quran since they do not take the wording of the scriptures literally, but rather allegorically. In Aslan’s own words, “ It is a shame that this word, myth, which originally signifies nothing more than stories of the supernatural, has come to be regarded as synonymous with falsehood, when in fact myths are always true. By very nature, myths inhere both legitimacy and credibility. Whatever truths they convey have little to do with historical fact. To ask whether Moses actually parted the Red Sea, or whether Jesus truly raised Lazarus from the dead, or whether the word of God indeed poured through the lips of Muhammad, is to ask totally irrelevant questions. The only question that matters with regard to a religion is “what do those stories mean.” Very logical indeed, yet this logic is lost when we learn that Erfanies believe in the ability of man to walk on water when he reaches to high levels on his path.
Now this brief introduction was necessary to understand where Aslan originally came from. The direction his book takes might deceive many as modernized thinking while in fact, nothing was new, nor modernized in his approach. Sufism ideology is even older than Islam itself, although it did not bear the same name. We would understand Aslan’s perception of his version of Islamic history, once we learn that he does not believe in the credibility of the traditions of the prophet. To him; they were just repetitive tales. In other words; he believes they’re folklore, “ the great majority of which were unquestionably fabricated by individuals who sought to legitimize their own particular beliefs and practices by connecting them to prophet”. Aslan dismissed all traditions, mostly the Sunni version, and claimed that they were forgeries. Apparently he based his perception mostly on Seara (the first historical biographies of the prophet), and some other apologetic sources. And I do agree with him in that respect, a lot of traditions sound so dreadful, that one could never believe that they could be the words of a prophet, it does not at all present the prophet who is calling for a utopian Islam. But Aslan is missing the fact that a big part of Islamic history was taken from those traditions. Then which part did he take and which did he discard? And if he believes that traditions are not authentic, then what makes him think that Quran is?

To be continued

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  1. Trackback: No God but God/A review(VI) « The Ultimate

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