Friday, 5 October 2018

Abdolkarim Soroush on Rumi, Sufism and Pluralism in the Muslim World

In a recent interview, Abdolkarim  Soroush (*1946), Iran's best known living philosopher, explained the continuing relevance of the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273). Aside from the power of the poetry itself , Rumi's writings also offers a window on religious knowledge that is different from discursive Islamic theology:
Sufism or mysticism or irfan, as I like to call it, is a way of life that combines this world and the other world. Irfan actually comes from the word marifa, which means, "to know, knowledge". 
Is irfan part of theology? It all depends on the meaning of theology. If you translate theology into ilm al-kalam, it is not part of theology because, in that case, theology means demonstrative science – looking for the footsteps. You work with proof (burhan) and with evidence (dalil). But an arif doesn't look at dalil, he is looking for the thing itself and not the signs of it. Therefore Sufism cannot be part of ʿilm al-kalam in the traditional sense of Islamic theology. In traditional Islamic thought, theology and Sufism are two utterly different approaches.
 In contrast to the prophets associated with the foundation of new religious traditions, Sufis play a different role in the dissemination of religious experience and knowledge, offering interpretations that are more in tune with the demands and challenges of today's increasingly interconnected world.

For earlier posts on the thought of Abdolkarim Soroush on this blog, click here and here

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