THE Lawā'iḥ is a treatise on Ṣūfī theology or theosophy, as distinguished from the religious emotions experienced by all Ṣūfīs, learned and unlearned alike. Catholic authorities have drawn this distinction between “experi­mental” and “doctrinal” mysticism,* and it is a great help towards clear thinking on this subject. The religious emotion common to all mankind is, so to speak, raised to its highest power in the mystics. They are overwhelmed by the sense of the Divine omnipresence and of their own dependence on God. They are dominated and intoxicated by their vivid sense of the close relation subsisting between the soul and God. They conceive themselves as being in touch with God, feeling His motions in their souls, and at times rising to the beatific vision and blinded by excess of light. These religious experiences were the rough material out of which the doctrinal reasoned system, set out in treatises like the Lawā'iḥ, was built up. Psychologists have advanced various theories as to the genesis of these experiences.* With these we are not at present concerned. But as to the origin of the philosophical ideas and terms employed in the Lawā'iḥ and similar works to formulate the Ṣūfī theology, there can be little doubt. The source of Ṣūfī theology was Neoplatonism.

The title of the book, Lawā'iḥ, or “Flashes of Light”, suggests the philosophy employed to systematize and give a reasoned basis for the unreasoned “experiences” of unlearned Ṣūfīs. It of course refers to the “inner light”. The Platonists were called Ishrāqīn or Illuminati, because they regarded intellectual intuition or intuitive reason (Nous) as the main source of knowledge, whereas the Peripatetics (Mashshā'īn) recognized no sources of knowledge except the senses and the discursive reason (Dianoia). The word Ishrāq, or “Lights”, is often met with in this connexion. Thus Shams-ud-dīn Muḥammad ash-Shahrazūrī is called by Haji Khalfa “a metaphysician learned in the inner lights” (Ishrāq).* Shihāb-ud-dīn as Suhrawardī, who was put to death at Aleppo in 587 A.H. by advice of that valiant defender of the Faith, Sulān Ṣalāḥ-ud-dīn, wrote a book entitled Ḥikmat-ul-Ishrāq, or “Philosophy of Inner Light”.* The author of the Dabistān says that the belief of the pure Ṣūfīs is the same as that of the Ishrāqīn or Platonists,* and also that Ṣūfīs were classed as orthodox (Mutasharri') and Platonists.* Haji Khalfa, in his article on Ṣūfism (Tasawwuf), says that anyone who reads Ṣūfī books cannot fail to remark that their terminology is borrowed from the Platonistṣ (Ishrāqīn), and more especially from the later ones—i.e. the Neoplatonists.* Let any reader who has even a slight acquaintance with the terms used by the Greek philosophers look over treatises like the Lawā'iḥ and the Gulshan i Rāz and on almost every page he will recognize some familiar Greek term. Schmölders in his Documenta Philosophiæ Arabum gives a list of nearly one hundred such terms employed by Avicena (Ibn Sīna) and other writers on philosophy in the fifth century of the Hijira.

It was probably at about the end of the fifth century A.H. that Neoplatonic gnōsis began to influence and modify Ṣūfī doctrine. Up to that date the doctrine had been expounded in short precepts, parables (mithāl), and similes like those in the Koran. But educated Moslems had outgrown these primitive methods of instruction. They wanted something more systematic. Jalāl-ud-dīn Rūmī tells us how his critics assailed him for dealing in trivial examples and parables instead of giving a systematic account of the stages of the soul's ascent to God.* Ibn Khaldūn mentions Muḥāsibī and the great Imām Ghazālī as among the first who wrote systematic treatises on the doctrines of the Ṣūfīs.* We have Ghazālī's own account of the way in which he was attracted to Ṣūfism,* and other passages in his writings prove that he used the forms of Greek thought to explain Ṣūfī principles.* If it be asked how Greek philosophy reached Ghazālī, who was a native of Khurāsān,* the answer is easy. When Justinian closed the schools at Athens, Damascius and his Neoplatonist brethren fled to the court of Nushirvān. They only remained there about a year, and left in 533 A.D.; but Nushirvān had some translations of Neoplatonist books made at the time, and these were followed by many others, made two centuries and a half later, under the Abbasides at Baghdad.*

Greek philosophy was expounded by the so-called Arabian, but really Persian, philosophers, Al Farābī and Avicena, and afterwards in the Ikhwān-uṣ-Ṣafā.* Shahrastānī, a contemporary of Ghazālī, gave accounts of all the chief Greek philosophers, including the “Shaikh of the Greeks” or Plotinus,* his editor Porphyry, and Proclus. The so-called “Theology of Aristotle”, which is a summary of the “Enneads” of Plotinus,* appeared probably soon afterwards. The result was that Neoplatonism, mainly in the form expounded by Plotinus, was used by all the more learned Ṣūfīs to explain and justify the simple emotional sayings of the early Ṣūfīs. Henceforward Neoplatonism pervades all systematic treatises on Ṣūfism, such as the Faṣūṣ-ul-Ḥikam, the Maqṣad-ul-Aqṣā,* the Gulshan i Rāz,* and the Lawā'iḥ. Even the poets use the Greek terminology. Thus Ḥakīm Sanā'ī, who lived at the same time as Ghazālī, introduces “Universal Reason” and “Universal Soul”, the second and third hypostases of the Trinity of Plotinus, and the principal later poets follow suit.*

The first Ṣūfīs differed from ordinary Moslems only in their quietism (taslīm) and their puritan ideal of life. They held the orthodox doctrines, with perhaps a few reservations. But when Greek influences came into play all these doctrines underwent more or less modification. Take the following samples:—

1. The central doctrine of Islām, “There is no God but Allah,” was “restated” in the form “There is no real Being and no real Agent (Fā'il i haqīqī) but the One, ‘The Truth’ (Al Haqq)”. Allah was not entirely stripped of personal attributes such as will and consciousness, but He has ceased to be conceived as a purely supramundane Deity, enthroned above the empyrean heaven, creating the world by one fiat, ruling His subjects, like some mighty monarch, by commands and prohibitions, and paying them wages according to their deserts. He has become a Being immanent and “deeply interfused” in the universe,* and giving it all the real existence it has. The Koran speaks of Allah as omniscient, but omniscience was now expanded into “omni-essence”, if one may use such a word.* It was the Plotinian doctrine of the “One” and its Emanations which furnished the Ṣūfī theologians with the material for this wider conception of “The Truth”, the ultimate divine ground of all things, the “Substance” as Spinoza called it.

2. Like all great religious teachers, Muḥammad laid chief stress on right conduct, and this consisted in implicit obedience to every one of Allah's commands, as disobedience to any one was sin. The distinction between moral laws and commands merely relating to ritual observances was not clearly laid down. It has been said that Islām means “striving after righteousness”.* That is so, but righteousness was interpreted as including the scrupulous observance of trivial rules as to ablutions, prayers, fasting, etc.* It may well be doubted if Muḥammad is responsible for some of the directions about ritual which are ascribed to him,* but, be this as it may, more and more importance came to be assigned to the scrupulous observance of these ritual forms. The early Ṣūfīs, like the Quakers, held that divine illumination and grace were imparted directly to every soul, and not through the channel of external observances. They thought that the mechanical routine of rites (taqlīd) only served to induce the spiritual torpor which Dante called “accidia”.* St. Bernard remarked this result in his monks, but he set it down to the fault of the men, not to that of the system. The Ṣūfī theologians adopted the Neoplatonist view that the ritual law is not binding upon spiritual men. In like manner St. Paul called the Jewish law a “yoke of bondage” (taqlīd). Shabistarī contrasts the mere outward Islām of ritual observances with the true piety of some heathens, much to the advantage of the latter, and Jalāl-ud-dīn Rūmī declares that “Fools exalt the Mosque while they ignore the true temple in the heart”.*

3. Greek philosophy taught the immortality of the soul, but denied the resurrection of the body. And hence the language of the Koran about Heaven and Hell ultimately came to be regarded as merely allegorical. The early Ṣūfīs held very strongly that love to God should be quite disinterested and untainted by hope of reward. They thought “other-worldliness” no better than worldliness. According to the Ṣūfī theologians there is no material heaven or hell. When the particle of real being in each soul is stripped of its mortal vesture, “of what account” (they asked) “will be Paradise and houris?”* In the case of those who have retained a perfect reasonable soul the divine particle will return intact to the One Real Being. When the soul has in life shrunk to a mere animal or vegetive soul, some remnant of the divine particle within it may still survive and return to the One Being. But if the divine spark has been utterly quenched by evil living there is nothing left which can survive. Dr. Charles in his Eschatology says that some Jewish apocalyptic writers held that there was no resurrection of the wicked.

4. Muḥammad had no taste for speculation. He said: “Think on the mercies of God, not on the essence of God.” And again: “Sit not with those who discuss predesti­nation.” His language on predestination is merely popular. In one passage it is that of determinism, in another that of freewill. In one place Allah constrains all, guiding some aright and causing others to err.* Elsewhere man acts freely without constraint. But the theologians fastened on these obscure problems, and did their best to shift the religious centre of gravity from right conduct to right opinion on these problems. In a word they preached salvation by gnōsis. The traditionists fathered on Muḥammad various sayings to prove that he regarded orthodoxy on these “afterthoughts of theology” as all-important for salvation. Thus the saying “My people shall be split into seventy-three sects, all of whom but one shall perish in hell fire” is one which betrays theological authorship. In Muḥammad's lifetime the contest was not with sects within Islām, but with aliens who rejected Islām altogether. For these he had no mercy, but he would scarcely have been so hard on his own people for venial errors of opinion. Again, he could hardly have said “Qadarians are Magian (dualists)” at a time when (as is almost certain) no sect of that name had yet arisen.* The early Ṣūfīs did not concern themselves with the disputes of the sects. But the Ṣūfī theologians could not altogether ignore them. They took sides against the sects which leaned to anthropomorphism, and, on the other hand, fully agreed with the doctrine of the Compulsionists or extreme Predestinarians.* That sect held that God, as the One Real Agent, not only permitted evil, but of set purpose allotted evils, present or future, to the majority of mankind. This strange doctrine (which has its counterpart in Europe) forced the Ṣūfī theologians to attempt some reconciliation of Divine power, as thus interpreted, with Divine goodness, and here, like Augustine, they availed themselves of the “not-being” ('adm) of Plotinus.*

Perhaps, however, the true Ṣūfī spirit was best interpreted by Jalāl-ud-dīn Rūmī, when he declared that he agreed with all seventy-three sects as being all honest attempts to grasp the obscure truth. Errors in “naming the names of God” are of small account. According to the Ḥadīth, “He who does the works will know the doctrine.” And true love to God atones for all mistakes of doctrine.*

Jāmī is a typical Ṣūfī theologian. He works hard to construct a reasoned basis for Ṣūfism, but finally realizes that his logical definitions and syllogisms cannot express the truth as it really is, and add nothing to the grounds on which the convictions of Ṣūfīs must always rest. It is only by means of the spiritual clairvoyance generated by love that Divine knowledge (ma'rifat) can be attained.* Those who have these spiritual intuitions do not need demonstrations, and to those who have them not all demonstrations are useless.

5. Muḥammad, like Luther, rejected asceticism. Suhra-wardy quotes several of his anti-ascetic sayings, including the familar one “There is no monasticism in Islām”. He approved of poverty, it is true, and prescribed a month of fasting, but set his face firmly against the cloistered life and celibacy.* The early Ṣūfīs were, perhaps, attracted to asceticism by the example of the Christians in Syria, where the first Ṣūfī convent was built; and Neoplatonist doctrine furnished the rationale of ascetic practice. Matter was evil, and therefore all material and sensuous taint, including the natural instincts (phronēma sarkos), must be purged away and extirpated by all who claimed to be spiritual men.* Thus a double system of religious conduct was set up—the external law for ordinary men and “the counsels of perfection”, the more perfect way of asceticism and contemplation, for spiritual men. The external law of ritual observances had no longer any dominion over spiritual men.* This abrogation of the ceremonial law naturally tempted some undisciplined Ṣūfīs, as it has tempted some professing followers of St. Paul, to laxity in the observance of the moral law. The Malāmatīs, for instance, committed immoral acts in order to court reproach and humble their self-esteem. But such doctrines were always condemned by the more authoritative Ṣūfī theologians. Thus Shabistarī (Gulshan i Rāz, Answer iv) says that the true mystic who has attained “union” must not rest in that ecstatic state, but while he is in the flesh must journey down again, wearing the law as his outer garment and carrying out its obligations.

6. The Ṣūfī “Contemplation” (Mushāhadah) is closely allied to the Plotinian “deifying virtue” of Theōria explained as Theou orasis or the beatific vision. One line of scholars, led by A. von Kremer, however, traces this element of Ṣūfism to Vedantism or to Buddhism. The objections to this view are first that no Indian terms are found in Ṣūfī writings and secondly that the Buddhist Nirvāna is an end in itself; the Ṣūfī Fanā is only the preliminary to Baqā, continued existence in the One Real Being. When the One becomes the “heir of all”, or, as St. Paul says, when He is “all in all” (panta en pasin), Ṣūfīs look for an immortality of an impersonal character, concentrated in the One. Lastly, metempsychōsis is condemned by Ṣūfī theologians (Gulshan i Rāz, l. 106).

Harnack, in his History of Dogma, has shown how profoundly Christian theology has been affected by Neoplatonist ideas. The disputes about Ousia, Hypostasis, and Physis which rent Christendom asunder* mainly grew from “afterthoughts of theology” suggested by these ideas, and their influence has extended to our own days.* It is hardly too much to say that their influence on the course of events has been as considerable as that of the Roman law. In Islām their influence has been much more restricted than in Christendom, but, such as it was, it is instructive to trace it.*

The manuscript of the Lawā'iḥ now reproduced is undated, but was probably written within a century of Jāmī's death in 898 A.H. It once belonged to the royal library at Delhi, and the outside pages contain notes by the librarians, one of which, dated the 24th year of Aurangzīb, states that it was worm-eaten even then. W. H. Morley, who also owned it, has noted on the fly-leaf his opinion that it is not Jāmī's work, but written by one Sayyid 'Abd ul Kāfi. This, however, is certainly a mistake. Haji Khalfa, in his notice of Jāmī's Lawā'iḥ, quotes the beginning, which agrees with the beginning of this manuscript,* and one of the quatrains gives Jāmī's name. The British Museum possesses three copies—viz., Add. 16820 (Rieu, p. 44a); Add. 16819, iv (Rieu, p. 826b); and Add. 7689, iv, fol. 150 onwards (Rieu, p. 810b). Copies are to be found in other libraries. In addition to that now reproduced, I possess one, written in an Indian hand, probably in the eighteenth century.*

The facsimile of the manuscript has been made by Messrs. Nops, of Ludgate Hill. They have been very successful in removing nearly all traces of the stains and worm-holes in the original, and I think the writer of the manuscript himself, could he see it, would find little fault with their reproduction of his handiwork.

I began the translation some years ago, but, owing to failing eyesight, had to stop after getting to the end of Flash VII. I have now been fortunate enough to secure the assistance of a very competent scholar, Mīrzā Muḥammad Ḳazvīnī, who has furnished me with a literal French version of the whole, together with some valuable notes. In his translation the Mīrzā has chiefly followed the British Museum Manuscript Add. No. 16819, which contains several passages not found in this manuscript. Most, if not all, of these seem to me to be glosses which have crept into the text, but I have given them in this translation, marking them with square brackets. Up to the end of Flash VII the accompanying translation is that made by me some years ago, with some corrections suggested by the Mīrzā's version. From the beginning of Flash VIII to the end of the book the translation is the Mīrzā's French version turned into English by me. In this part of the work I have followed the Mīrzā closely, only referring to the original to verify a word here and there. I am solely responsible for the Preface and notes. If they contain errors of fact or doctrine, these must not be imputed to the Mīrzā.

The references to the Gulshan i Rāz are to my edition of that work (Trübner, 1880); those to the Masnavī of Jalāl-ud-dīn Rūmī to my translation of that poem (second edition, published in Trübner's Oriental Series, 1898); those to Omar Khayyām to my text and translation, published in the same series, second edition, 1901.

As regards transliteration, I follow the rule laid down long since by the Inḍian Government, that when foreign words have become naturalized in English they should be spelled according to English usage. Thus I write Calcutta, Moslem, Koran, Abbasides, etc. Again, when a Persian writer has chosen to transliterate his own name in a particular way, I do not presume to interfere with his discretion. I give titles of books as they are spelled on the title-pages, and, like Rieu, I represent hamza by the “spiritus lenis” ('). With these exceptions I have in the main observed the transliteration rules of the Royal Asiatic Society.

E. H. W.