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Monday, February 15, 2010

ISLAM, IMAN & IHSAN: "Surrender" "Faith" & "Virtue"

Seyyed Hossein Nasr

"O thou soul which are at peace, return unto thy Lord, with gladness that is thine in Him and His in thee. Enter thou among My slaves. Enter thou My Paradise." (Quran - LXXXIX; 27-30 (trans. by M. Lings.) 


The function of religion is to bestow order upon human life and to establish an "outward" harmony upon whose basis man can return inwardly to his Origin by means of the journey toward the "interior" direction. This universal function is especially true of Islam, this last religion of humanity, which is at once a Divine injunction to establish order in human society and within the human soul and at the same time to make possible the interior life, to prepare the soul to return unto its Lord and enter the Paradise which is none other than the Divine Beatitude.


God is at once the First (al-awwal) and the Last (al-akhir), the Outward (al-zahir) and the Inward (al-batin). [1] By function of His outwardness He creates a world of separation and otherness and through His inwardness He brings men back to their Origin.


Religion is the means whereby this journey is made possible, and it recapitulates in its structure the creation itself which issues from God and returns unto Him. Religion consists of a dimension which is outward and another which, upon the basis of this outwardness, leads to the inward. These dimensions of the Islamic revelation are called the Shariah (the Sacred Law), the Tariqah (the Path) and the Haqiqah (the Truth), [2] or from another point of view they correspond to islam, iman, and ihsan, or "surrender", "faith" and "virtue".[3] 


No man has the right to approach the Imminent without surrendering himself to the Transcendent, and it is only in possessing faith in the Transcendent that man is able to experience the Imminent. Or from another point of view, it is only in accepting the Shari'ah that man is able to travel upon the Path (tariqah) and finally to reach the Truth (haqiqah) which lies at the heart of all things and yet is beyond all determination and limitation. 

To interiorize life itself and to become aware of the inward dimension, man must have recourse to rites whose very nature it is to cast a sacred form upon the waves of the ocean of multiplicity in order to save man and bring him back to the shores of Unity. The major rites or pillars (arkan) of Islam, namely the daily prayers (salat), fasting (sawm), the pilgrimage (hajj), the religious tax (zakat) and holy war (jihad), are all means of sanctifying man's terrestrial life and enabling him to live and to die as a central being destined for beatitude. But these rites themselves are not limited to their outer forms. Rather they possess inward dimensions and levels of meaning which man can reach in function of the degree of his faith (iman) and the intensity and quality of his virtue or inner beauty (ihsan). 


Although the whole of the Quranic revelation is called "islam", from the perspective in question here it can be said that not all those who follow the tradition on the level of islam are mu'mins, namely those who possess iman, nor do all those who are mu'mins possess ihsan, which is at once virtue and beauty and by function of which man is able to penetrate into the inner meaning of religion. The Islamic revelation is meant for all human beings destined to follow this tradition. 


But not all men are meant to follow the interior path. It is enough for a man to have lived according to the Shariah and in surrender (islam) to the Divine Will to die in grace and to enter into ParadiseBut there are those who yearn for the Divine here and now and whose love for God and propensity for the contemplation of the Divine Realities (al-haqaiq) compel them to seek the path of inwardness. The revelation also provides a path for such men, for men who through their iman and ihsan "return unto their Lord with gladness" while still walking upon the earth.


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http://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/interior-nasr.htm



Allah Almighty and Exalted has said, “And there are servants of God the Compassionate who walk on the earth with humility, and when they are addressed by the illiterate (in a manner unbecoming to them) they say, “Peace (be on you)”. In these times, however, God Almighty and Exalted has kept most of the people veiled from these people (sufis) and their affairs, and the mysteries of this persuasion have been hidden from their hearts. Hence a group thinks that this (Sufism) is no more than a formal custom with no reality and substance. " Kashful Mahjub, Hazrat Usman Ali Hajveri Data Ganj Bakhsh


SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR



Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University and the author of numerous books including Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (Kazi Publications, 1998), Religion and the Order of Nature (Oxford, 1996) and Knowledge and the Sacred (SUNY, 1989). He has trained different generations of students over the years since 1958 when he was a professor at Tehran University and then, in America since the Iranian revolution in 1979, specifically at Temple University in Philadelphia from 1979 to 1984 and at the George Washington University since 1984 to the present day.

Born in Tehran into a family of distinguished scholars and physicians, Nasr also comes from a family of Sufis. One of his ancestors was Mulla Seyyed Muhammad Taqi Poshtmashhad, who was a famous saint of Kashan, and his mausoleum which is located next to the tomb of the Safavid King Shah Abbas, is still visited by pilgrims to this day.

He traveled to Morocco in North Africa, which had great spiritual significance for Nasr who embraced Sufism in the form taught and practiced by the great Sufi saint of the Maghrib, Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi.

For Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the quest for knowledge, specifically knowledge which enables man to understand the true nature of things and which furthermore, "liberates and delivers him from the fetters and limitations of earthly existence," has been and continues to be the central concern and determinant of his intellectual life. According to Nasr, it was the discovery of traditional metaphysics and the philosophia perennis which settled the intellectual crisis he had experienced. 

From then on, he was certain that there was such a thing as the Truth and that it could be attained through knowledge by means of the intellect which is guided and illuminated by divine revelation. Nasr was soon recognized in American academic circles as a traditionalist and a major expositor and advocate of the perennialist perspective. Much of his intellectual activities and writing since being in exile in America, are related to this function and also in the fields of comparative religion, philosophy and religious dialogue.

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