Mysticism, Sufism, and Practical Spirituality
All spirituality is either practical or it is not spirituality. There is no such thing as religion sans spirituality. There is no abstract or purely speculative religion and mysticism. All religions talk about the earth from which they arise. All religions have a way of transforming the world or at least transforming our attitude to the world. There is no spirituality outside or in contradiction to religion, the assertion of libertine spiritualists notwithstanding. Such statements as samsara is nirvana/The kingdom of God is within us/This very Garden is the Garden of Eden/There is no difference between this world and the other world/Eternity is in time—that occur across different traditions—foreground the point that traditional spiritual systems are meant for this world and this world is the place for the other world. The other world is the depth of this world, the fifth dimension, so to speak, of the otherwise four dimensional ordinary world. We may approach the question of spirituality in Islam by first defining Sufism so that the key aspect of its worldly character comes to the fore. It will be seen that Sufism is a series of therapeutic measures aimed at changing our habitual personality so that we get a new personality not crippled by alienation, angst, and so on and realize the highest potential of human spirit. What is urgent for all of us is our conquest of suffering and alienation and getting proximity to the divine presence, to be true to our theomorphic nature, and to partake of the great treasures of the spirit. Life asks all of us some very fundamental existential questions and wisdom lies in seeking to deal with them at an individual level. We now see how Sufism takes up these fundamental existential questions. We shall particularly though not exclusively focus on Ibn ‘Arabî, the greatest Master as he is called (and his perspective as Akbarain), as we explore these questions.