Tasawwuf al-Haytami

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 974) on Tasawwuf

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami was a student of Zakariyya al-Ansari. As mentioned before, he represents the foremost resource for legal opinion (fatwa) in the entire late Shafi`i school. He was once asked about the legal status of those who criticizes Sufis:

Is there an excuse for such critics? He replies in his Fatawa hadithiyya:It is incumbent upon every person endowed with mind and religion not to fall into the trap of criticizing these folk (Sufis), for it is a mortal poison, as has been witnessed of old and recently.1

Among many others on the same topic, he gave an important fatwa entitled: “Whoever denies, rejects, or disapproves of the Sufis, Allah will not make his knowledge beneficial.” We transcribe it below in full:

Our Shaykh, the gnostic (`arif) scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Bakri (d. 952) told me, on the authority of the shaykh and scholar Jamal al-Din al-Sabi verbatim — and he is one of the most distinguished students of our Shaykh Zakaria al-Sabiq (al-Ansari), that al-Sabi used to reject and criticize the way of the honorable Ibn al-Farid. One time al-Sabi saw in a dream that it was the Day of Judgment, and he was carrying a load which made him exhausted, then he heard a caller saying: “Where is the group of Ibn al-Farid?” He said:I came forward in order to enter with them, but I was told: “You are not one of them, so go back.” When I woke up I was in extreme fear, and felt regret and sorrow, so I repented to Allah from rejecting the way of Ibn al-Farid, and renewed my commitment to Allah, and returned to believing that he is one of the awliya — saints and friends — of Allah. The following year on the same night, I had the same dream. I heard the caller saying: “Where are the group of Ibn al-Farid? Let them enter Paradise.” So I went with them and I was told: “Come in, for now you are one of them.”

Examine this matter carefully as it come from a man of knowledge in Islam. It appears — and Allah knows best — that it is because of the baraka or blessing of his shaykh Zakariyya al-Ansari that he has seen the dream which made him change his mind. Otherwise, how many of their deniers they have left to their blindness, until they found themselves in loss and destruction!

If you ask: “Some eminent scholars, like al-Bulqini and others, the latest being al-Biqa`i and his students, and others under whom you yourself (i.e. al-Haytami) have studied, have disapproved of the Sufis, so why did you prefer this way over another?

I answer: I have preferred this way for a number of reasons, among them:*

What our shaykh has mentioned in Sharh al-rawd on the authority of Sa`d al-Din al-Taftazani (d. 791),2 the truthfinder of Islam, the knight of his field, the remover of the proofs of darkness that the latter said, responding Ibn al-Muqri’s statement: “Whoever doubts in the disbelief (kufr) of Ibn al-`Arabi’s group, he himself is a disbeliever”: “The truth is that Ibn al-`Arabi and his group are the elite of the Umma, and al-Yafi`i, Ibn Ata’ Allah, and others have clearly declared they considered Ibn `Arabi a wali, and that the language which Sufis use is true among the experts in its usage, and that the gnostic (`arif), when he becomes completely absorbed in the oceans of Unity, might make some statements that are liable to be misconstrued as incarnation (hulul) and ittihad (union), while in reality there is neither incarnation nor union.”*

It has been clearly stated by our Imams, such as al-Rafi`i in his book al`Aziz, and al-Nawawi in al-Rawda, al-Majmu`, and others:

“When a mufti is being asked about a certain phrase that can be construed as disbelief, he should not immediately say that the speaker should be put to death nor make permissible the shedding of his blood. Rather let him say: The speaker must be asked about what he meant by his statement, and he should hear his explanation, then act accordingly.”

Look at these guidelines — may Allah guide you! — and you will find that the deniers who assault this great man (Ibn `Arabi) and positively assert his disbelief, ride upon blind mounts, and stumble about like a camel affected with troubled vision. Verily Allah has removed their sight and their hearing from perceiving this, until they fell into whatever they fell into, which caused them to be despised, and made their knowledge of no benefit.*

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