May 2, 2008

Islamic Mysticism and Poetry of Rumi-Wed. Jan. 9th Notes

Posted in Islam, Islamic Mysticism and Poetry of Rumi, Knowledge, Sufism at 7:34 pm by faith786

Assalamu Alaikum,

Well, I am back on my blog rampage (probably because I want to avoid doing other things) and I was looking at my notes for Elmhurst College. I guess I like what I am learning in my class about Islamic Mysticism and Poetry of Rumi. So I figured I would put up some of my notes. I find it interesting that I have learned majority of these things at an Islamic School and now learning about them in a non-Islamic setting, I am learning things I never paid much attention to or simply new things all together. So here are some of my notes (again, I am a sucky note taker and I am too lazy to fix them):

What is a religion? (What does it do? How is used-both in good and bad ways?)

  • Lifestyle-it shapes a person’s way of life
  • Common belief (amongst a group of people)
  • Way of thought (one’s individual perception of the world(s))
  • Code of morals-what is considered right and wrong
  • It unites people
  • It divides people (conflicts, historical events)
  • Gives a sense of purpose
  • Can be loosely interpreted (liberal vs. extremist)
  • Can be exclusive or limited
  • Can justify one’s actions (that can be a good or bad trait)
  • Provides an aim for some kind of outcome
  • Something that sets an example for others
  • Ultimate concern in life is one’s religion (I believe Tilich said that-it is also a partially Islamic concept)
  • Deeply affects culture
  • Can heal a person
  • Some religions dictate thoughts over actions or actions over thoughts (“Surely all acts are based upon intentions.”)
  • Has some sort of rituals
  • Easily misinterpreted
  • Connects a person to the divine or supernatural (if they believe in it)
  • Something to work towards (similar to purpose)
  • It can transform a person or conform a person
  • Explains the unexplained
  • Explains how society should act
  • There is either a text or person who triggers a religion (possibly an event)
  • Can create stereotypes
  • Something is worshiped
  • Can explain death and the afterlife
  • There is an element of faith
  • explains something about one’s salvation

Mysticism (either definition or what you think of when hearing that term):

  • You might think of a unicorn (lol to the classmate who said this one)
  • Purity of the soul and heart (sounds like Tazkiyah)
  • Reminds some of an oracle or an element of divination
  • Requires faith
  • Has to require some kind of belief, whether it is a formal religion or not (this can be argued)
  • Focus on the INTERNAL being

Difference between prayer and magic:

  • Both refer to a super being or supernatural powers
  • Magic is seen as humans having more control over the super natural while prayer is seen as asking a high being/supernatural to make something happen

What is the purpose of a story?

  • To entertain
  • To share a moral or lesson
  • Social/historical etc. etc. commentary
  • Retell events
  • Can be fictional or non fiction (mostly former)
  • To gain knowledge
  • To pass tradition
  • A kind of human interaction (i.e. story telling)

Relationship between History and Stories (similarities, differences, affect each other):

  • History is primarily drawn from stories
  • History must be (or should be) based on fact
  • History can also be drawn from scientific premises (i.e. fossils, landscapes, etc. )
  • History can also be biased, like stories
  • But the primary difference is this: History is based on TRUST (we believe it is true-believe in the unseen, etc. etc.) We do not need to trust that stories are true


  • “Love of Wisdom” (Greek: Sophia=wise, Phil=love)
  • Images that come to mind: eccentric/old/bow-tie (Dr. Parker lol)/toga/balding with a beard
  • Enlightenment/epiphanies
  • speech and words (Arabic:Kalaam refers to philosophy when its literal definition is speech–> Arabs thought that philosophy was just manipulating/using a bunch of words)
  • Opinionated/commentary/questioning
  • Filled with ideas and deeper meaning, etc.
  • Based on logic, theory and experience (or it should be)
  • ***Good at asking questions, categorizing, and creating methodologies

Prophecy/Prophets (and how they relate to philosophy):

  • Deal with the Divine and some, a revelation
  • Image of someone old with a *holy glow* (one up for the person who said that in class)
  • Some message
  • Calling attention to the past/present/future
  • Prophet has *experience* and tells people
  • Primary difference between Prophecy and Philosophy is how they are perceived by different cultures:
  • –Western Philosophy-logic, theory, experience
  • –Eastern Philosophy-prophecy and poetry

Ascetic (not aesthetic, lol Rachel):

  • inward/spiritual/lives alone (i.e. hermit)/little connection with the world….
  • Self mortification (and flagellation)
  • Has *Experience* but doesn’t tell people
  • Conscious choice
  • Prophets generally are in contact with public and offers knowledge and wisdom. Ascetic may at times, but they are normally by themselves (and don’t offer anything)


  • “Submission” or “Surrender” (former is closer to literal definition)
  • Salaam-peace, obedience (Islam derives from salaam)
  • But the term “Islam” refers to submission to GOD.
  • In Islam there is a concept that every human being turns to something as a god (conscious or unconsciously done) . This is known as an ilah.


  • “god” (NOTE: lowercase g)
  • Something/one you enslave yourself to
  • Something/one you seek comfort from
  • Something/one you give the most love and worship
  • Something/one that is the first thing you turn to from danger to safety (NOTE: in one of the surah Kahf lectures, Shaykh Bilal mentions that a lot times people get sick and the first thing they might turn to is medicine. At the moment, that is their ilah. They should first turn to Allah and then seek appropriate action i.e. medicine. But that all comes from Allah.)
  • Something/one you seek clarity from confusion
  • Something/one you seek hope from despair
  • By the above criterion, ilah is defined not by what we profess, but what we actually end up doing.
  • ilah can be: Allah, gods, money, alcohol, nation-state, desires (hawa), carnal desires, ideology/science, and other things too.


  • Eternal, Independent, Pardoner (all the 99 names)

According to Islam, we naturally turn to Allah or an ilah.


  • We have a primordial state (Fitrah):
  • –Connected to Allah
  • –Built knowing right and wrong
  • –Idea of boundaries
  • –CAN be corrupted
  • –CAN be purified (but we are born pure)

Influences on our fitrah:

  • Choices (everyday, major, or minor)
  • Near ones (story of the blacksmith and perfume salesman)
  • Society (ideals, categories, options)
  • Devil (temptation, cloud one’s thinking)
  • Fitrah itself

That concludes my first day of class’s notes. Haha.



  1. this is very very useful. thank you!

  2. faith786 said,

    Oh, thank you for stopping by. It is really the knowledge of my professor, so I should thank him.

  3. […] Islamic Mysticism and Poetry of Rumi-Wed. Jan. 9th Notes […]

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