By Reynold A. Nicholson

A vintage and definitive advent to the message of Sufism.

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The Muslim theory of ecstasy, however, can hardly be discussed without reference to two of the above-mentioned technical expressions, namely, fanâ and samâ‘. As I have remarked in the Introduction (pp. 11-12), the term fanâ includes different stages, aspects, and meanings. These may be summarized as follows: 1. A moral transformation of the soul through the extinction of all its passions and desires. 2. A mental abstraction or passing-away of the mind from all objects of perception, thoughts, actions, and feelings through its concentration upon the thought of God.

It is a “passing-away” of evil qualities and states of mind, which involves the simultaneous “continuance” of good qualities and states of mind. This is necessarily an ecstatic process, inasmuch as all the attributes of “self” are evil in relation to God. e. ” This must be done for him, through “a flash of the divine beauty” in his heart. ” Using the classification generally adopted by Christian mystics, we may regard the former as the consummation of the Purgative Life, and the latter as the goal of the Illuminative Life.

Myself with mine own eyes I saw most clearly, But when I looked with God’s eyes—only God I saw. I passed away into nothingness, I vanished, And lo, I was the All-living—only God I saw. The whole of Sûfism rests on the belief that when the individual self is lost, the Universal Self is found, or, in religious language, that ecstasy affords the only means by which the soul can directly communicate and become united with God. * * Editor’s Note: Of course, Nicholson’s focus on, in his own words, “the extreme type” of ecstatic Sufi sources seems to support such a conclu- 42 Illumination and Ecstacy Among the metaphorical terms commonly employed by the Sûfîs as, more or less, equivalent to “ecstasy” are fanâ (passing-away), wajd (feeling), samâ‘ (hearing), dhawq (taste), shirb (drinking), ghaybat (absence from self), jadhbat (attraction), sukr (intoxication), and hâl (emotion).

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