8-Self-Awareness that Leads to Self-Loss: Futuwwa as a Compound Virtue in the Legacy of Anṣārī

Self-Awareness that Leads to Self-Loss: Futuwwa as a Compound Virtue in the Legacy of Anṣārī

Khwāja ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī of Herat (d. 1089) was destined for greatness, according to the hagiographer Jāmī.1 Upon meeting Anṣārī as a child, the immortal Khiḍr is said to have prophesied that Anṣārī’s voice would permeate the world, a prediction fulfilled by the seeming ubiquity of his writings.2 Anṣārī indicates that his upbringing was difficult, since his father, Abū Manṣūr Muḥammad (d. 1039), resented the ties of family life and abandoned his family to join his own Sufi master in Balkh. “What sin had we committed?” asks Anṣārī of his absentee father.3 Yet Anṣārī also remembers his father’s encouragement to achieve the illustriousness for which he was fated, for even as a child Anṣārī had an astonishing memory. He worked so diligently copying and memorizing Hadith accounts and their chains of transmission that he would forget to eat, so that his mother—who seems to have taken the lead in his education—had to put morsels in his mouth as he studied. Such tenacity ultimately resulted in his knowing 300,000 such Hadith accounts along with one million supporting chains of narration.4

  • THE “MASTER OF ISLAM”: TRADITIONALISM AND SUFI ETHICS

Anṣārī’s devotion to the Hadith was matched by his unwavering opposition to rational speculation. Anṣārī and others who valued the Hadith and Qurʾan as the only certain sources of religious knowledge considered themselves to be the “People of the Sunna” (Ahl al-Sunna), while deeming those who engaged in rational speculation to be “People of Opinion” (Ahl al-Raʾy).5 His opposition to the theologians, most notably the Ashʿarīs, led to many conflicts, because of the volatile relationships between scholars and shifting rulers in Nishapur at the time. Tried for what the theologians deemed anthropomorphic readings of the Hadith, Anṣārī was exonerated but chose a self-imposed two-year exile. Later, he would be imprisoned.6 After a period of ease in which traditionalist scholars saw favor, Niẓām al-Mulk rose to power as a powerful vizier. The vizier was partial to the Ashʿarī theologians. Anṣārī found himself forbidden from teaching and was expelled from Nishapur, forced to live in Balkh. Anṣārī’s popularity, as well as his unflinching indomitability during interrogations, eventually pressured Niẓām al-Mulk to venerate him publicly.7

Because of his commitment to the inner path as well as to the Hadith, Anṣārī endures in two different categories of Islamic biography. The Sufis claimed him. The Ḥanbalīs also claimed him in their chronicles, in one case describing him as the “leader of the People of the Sunna in Herat.”8 Anṣārī’s case belies many contemporary imaginings of Sufism. Often such depictions present Sufis as free-thinkers of uninhibited tolerance, promoting an ecstatic and loving alternative to more rigid interpretations of Islam.9 Anṣārī certainly advocated love for God, but his interpretive tradition advocated vigilant adherence to Islam’s scriptures in the face of that deemed to be speculative theological thinking and capricious hermeneutical embellishments. The Ḥanbalī school of thought had its share of scholars with Sufi affiliations, perhaps most famously ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (d. 1166). Many of those Ḥanbalī scholars, Anṣārī included, saw no conflict between their twin allegiances to Sufism, on one hand, and to staunch traditionalist interpretations of Islam, on the other. Two later Ḥanbalī scholars, Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) and Shams al-Dīn ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350), would see some conflicts between Anṣārī’s approach to Sufi ethics and their devotion to scripture. Yet both acknowledged his piety, even if Anṣārī’s “practice was better than his knowledge,” and Ibn Qayyim attempted to salvage that which was legitimate in Anṣārī’s writings by writing a separate manual.10

Objections of Ibn Taymiyya and his student Ibn Qayyim aside, as A. G. Ravān Farhādi indicates, there is significant contemporary relevance in the fact that Sufism and Ḥanbalism were once seen as perfectly compatible. It tells us that those today who have inherited the Ḥanbalī emphasis on the Hadith and distrust of rational speculation, including Wahhabis and certain Salafi groups, might reassess a perceived antagonism between their tradition and all Sufi thought and practices.11 It also reminds us that Sufi ethics for authors such as Anṣārī was nothing other than an Islamic ethics that included counsel for the spiritual elite.

  • STATIONS, WAYSTATIONS, STATES, AND IMMEDIATE MOMENTS ON THE PATH TO THE REAL

The idea that a person is on a “path” to proximity and unification with God forms the most common metaphor for the process of self-perfection in Sufi ethics. An aspirant is called a “wayfarer” (sālik); an established method of such aspiration is called a “path” (ṭarīqa); and the process of making inner advancements is called a “journey” (sayr) or “wayfaring” (sulūk). In fact, delineating such a path distinguishes Sufism from other approaches to living morally in Islam and even qualifies it as an academic discipline, or “science.” Rather than being completely individualized or disordered, the science of Sufism offers guidelines that indicate a person’s progression and carry the weight of saintly insight and precedence.

When Anṣārī refers to “this science” (hādhā al-ʿilm) in his masterpiece, The Waystations of the Journeyers to the Real (Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn ilā al-Ḥaqq), he means precisely the science that outlines spiritual progression, from basic ethical precepts to self-loss and unification. In doing so, he is developing a genre begun by earlier Sufi masters. Two very early Sufi figures, Shaqīq al-Balkhī and Abū al-Ḥusayn Aḥmad al-Nūrī (d. 907), composed shorter manuals that described stations of spiritual advancement. In the latter case, al-Nūrī’s focus was the stations of the heart itself, which undergoes a transformation that allows it to recognize God’s comprehensive unity.12 Major figures, such as al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī (d. ca. 912), Muḥammad Niffarī (d. ca. 976–7), al-Sarrāj, Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī, al-Qushayrī, and al-Kalābādhī, contributed to the genre of writing about stations, so that Anṣārī considered his endeavors to be a refinement of the genre.13 One such text, called The Open Roads of the Knowers (Manāhij al-ʿĀrifīn) by Sulamī, presents the journey of Sufism in a number of ways, beginning—like Anṣārī—with a divinely sanctioned rousing from heedlessness (tanabbuh) that leads to acts of renunciation. Repentance for Sulamī is followed by exertion until the human will becomes purified of all selfishness.14 As in Anṣārī’s treatise, Sulamī creates larger categories for such stations: “Sufism,” according to Sulamī, “has three stations: acts of good conduct (ādāb), [virtuous] character traits (akhlāq), and spiritual states (aḥwāl).”15

The problem with previous such works, says Anṣārī, was that some explained principles without elaboration; others gave accounts of saints without extracting a theoretical application; others failed to distinguish between that which applied to everyone and that which applied to the spiritual elite; others mistakenly identified isolated and esoteric ecstatic sayings as indications of a more generally applicable station; and most did not address the matter of progressing degrees.16 In fact, Anṣārī probably improved on an earlier treatise he had written in Persian, The Hundred Fields (Ṣad Maydān), in composing his Arabic manual, The Waystations of the Journeyers. In doing so, however, he relied on terms and categories developed by his predecessors. Four are of immediate importance:

  1. Maqām (station): As a person strives for proximity with God, a certain set of spiritual characteristics can become permanent, and correspond to that person’s level or station on the path. Anṣārī reminds us that God has declared people to be of varying “degrees” (Q 3:163), with one thousand such degrees separating each human seeker from God.17 Just as the “angels in the heavens” occupy various ranks of proximity to God and perform individual functions based on that ranking, so too does the final station of the human seeker become his or her ultimate rank of proximity.18 Similarly, the wayfarer’s rank and function in devotional existence is his or her station.
  2. Manzil (waystation): Any of the stations outlined by Anṣārī can function as a “waystation” if the aspirant is passing through, instead of stopping there.19 In other words, a waystation is a station temporarily occupied in one’s course of progression. It thus makes sense for Anṣārī to focus on “waystations” and pay little attention to “stations” in a book attempting to present the path in a cumulative sense, so that a person can know its every stage, from beginning to end. Of course, while Anṣārī recognizes that spiritual wayfarers are so diverse that “no definitive progression” and “no all-embracing objection” can apply to them, there is a basic division between foundations, middling achievements, and ultimate ends that can apply to most. In this sense, the progressing “waystations” correspond to a narrative of sorts—one that includes signs of beginnings (bidāyāt) and endings (nihāyāt), showing each wayfarer the pattern of what might be expected, while acknowledging that each individual experiences this narrative differently.20
  3. Ḥāl (state): The state is an inner condition defined by its transitoriness, immeasurably more transitory than a waystation. In fact, it is one of numerous modes of awareness and perception that comes upon a person often unexpectedly. A crude and perhaps inappropriate analogy might compare the “state” to a “mood,” if we were to see the “station” as a “personality,” with the rather crucial warning that we speak here of spiritual and not of emotional states. An excellent definition of the state can be found in a glossary by one of the foremost commentators on Anṣārī’s Waystations, namely, ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī (d. ca. 1335): “The state is that which enters upon the heart purely as a bestowal, without exertion or bringing it upon oneself, such as sorrow, fear, expansion, contraction, or tasting. It disappears when the attributes of the soul become manifest, whether or not it is followed by a similar state later. When it becomes permanent and thus a disposition (malaka), then it is called a station (maqām).”21
  4. Waqt (immediate moment): Anṣārī defines the “immediate moment” rather cryptically as “a name for the happening’s receptacle” (ẓarf al-kawn).22 It is explained thus by one of Anṣārī’s commentators, ʿAfīf al-Dīn Sulaymān al-Tilimsānī (d. 1291): Grammarians have a term for an adverb of time, such as “at night” or “nightly” (laylan), which they call a “receptacle of time” (ẓarf zamān). They call it a “receptacle of time” despite the fact that time cannot be contained.23 What can be contained or described in words are the movements and incidents that happen during moments of time. Anṣārī’s definition, al-Tilimsānī argues, comments insightfully on the very meaning of a moment in time, which is a receptacle for what occurs therein. In this case, the immediate moment is a container for the process of divine creation as it occurs for the wayfarer. It is the moment when “a state from among designated states… comes to be” within the heart, to use the words of al-Kāshānī.24 That is, it is the very moment when God bestows one of numerous forms of realization that causes the wayfarer to be focused entirely on the present.

There is another division incredibly important for reading Anṣārī’s taxonomy of spiritual progression. In the introduction to his Waystations, Anṣārī divides his readership into two different groups, those who seek and those who are sought, declaring all those who espouse some other way to God’s proximity to be false claimants.25 The seeker (murīd) strives before God, impelled by love, guarded by modesty, and wavering between the two extremes of fear of God’s displeasure and hope in God’s mercy. The sought (murād) has made it to the beginning phases of union, progressing closer and closer and eventually relinquishing all that he or she has accomplished in favor of absolute self-loss. The struggles at the very highest waystations have to do with moving beyond one’s own sense of self-loss in unification with the Real. Thus, the waystations proceed from activity to receptivity, from seeking to being sought, or from willing changes to oneself to realizing God’s will for oneself. One goes from acquiring virtuous traits to negating those traits of the self to see them replaced by the traits of God. In this process, fear and hope become replaced by contraction and expansion of the heart.26 One becomes less concerned with extrinsic chastisements and rewards and more concerned with God’s distance and nearness.

There is more complexity, however, to Anṣārī’s hundred waystations. It is true that they can generally be divided into those applicable to the former part of the journey (seeking), and those applicable to the latter part (being sought). That being said, almost all of the earlier waystations also have implications for those who are advanced. For this reason, Anṣārī divides waystations into categories pertaining to three ranks: common, elite, and elite of the elite.27

The first rank, the “common” (al-ʿāmma), often strive for a basic degree of piety and have a basic degree of religious knowledge, or are those who have just begun their pursuit of nearness to God. According to Anṣārī, the uninitiated religious knowledge of the common is best kept on the level of literal readings of scripture.28 The highest degree for the common is that of certitude (al-yaqīn), the forty-fifth waystation, which is thus the first step one takes as an elite.29 This is because the defining characteristic of the common is their dealings with things that are manifest, mostly in the sensory realm, while certitude is an introduction to the unseen, that is, that which is beyond the manifest.30 The more select group, the elite (al-khāṣṣa), are those who have “entered estrangement,” that is, those who have become caught up in matters of the heart and its budding ability to witness the Real, but are still affected by its fluctuations.31 Lastly, there are those who have attained the witnessing of divine beauty and have begun the process of recognizing His absolute unity and the self’s nonexistence. They are the “elite of the elite” (khāṣṣat al-khāṣṣa).32

Another complicating factor is that often Anṣārī discusses three degrees without signifying necessarily the three groups mentioned here. Rather, he means to indicate a range of accomplishments in that waystation, even if that range is exclusive to the elite and to the elite of the elite. This tripartite division of people became an important feature of Sufism by Anṣārī’s time, used by a devotee of Anṣārī—Abū al-Faḍl Rashīd al-Dīn Maybudī (fl. 1126). While Maybudī recognizes an unfinished exegesis by Anṣārī as the starting point of his own Persian exegesis, he attributes the tripartite division to much earlier Sufi figures.33

Anṣārī’s waystations are, then, points of progression toward unity with God with multiple applications. Any given waystation cannot be defined. Rather, Anṣārī provides a cluster of attributes that (a) describes the waystation, (b) situates the waystation in relation to what comes before and after, and (c) divides the waystation as it applies to three general categories of progression. Thus, for a waystation such as futuwwa (“chivalry” or “youngmanliness”), which will be considered below, one can see it as the fuller achievement of that which has come before; the latent achievement of that which will come after; and yet also a set of qualities intrinsically valuable to those at any stage of the journey. As a metaphor, one might think of the word “afternoon.” Afternoon shares qualities with noon and with sunset; it might be thought of as a “developed noon” or an “undeveloped sunset.” Afternoon is more than a phase, however. It is experienced as its own time of day with qualities of value unto itself. Yet that experience differs depending on perspective, clime, culture, occupation, and so forth. For Anṣārī, of course, difference is not merely relative; difference is experienced from the perspective of beginners, elites, and elite-of-elites.

The hundred waystations (al-manāzil), according to Anṣārī

  • SOUL, HEART, AND SPIRIT: FUTUWWA AS A PROPERTY OF THE SOUL

The notion of progression is important in appreciating Anṣārī’s contribution to Sufi ethics and moral psychology. His work, especially his Waystations, received acclaim and attention largely because the stations are ordered with a sense of care and precision not found elsewhere. The Hundred Fields, one of the first works in Persian to outline the Sufi stations, is an earlier work of Anṣārī’s, one that is probably an informal compilation of notes from his lectures, as might be the case with most of his Persian works.34 When it comes to considering the interrelations and categories of stations, it is not nearly as well considered and precise as the Waystations.35 Finally, The Hundred Fields lacks an important means of categorization found in the Waystation, namely the grouping of every ten waystations into a related unit, so that the ten units of the book also give an indication of more cumulative stages of evolution for the awakened self.

In The Hundred Fields, futuwwa (futuwwat) appears very early on in the progression; it is the fourth of 101 total “fields.” In Waystations, futuwwa is the thirty-ninth of 100 total “waystations.” As such, it is situated among other related waystations in the fourth unit of ten, the “Category on [Virtuous] Character Traits” (qism al-akhlāq). This category, according to the commentator al-Kāshānī, is mostly focused on the acquisition of properties that facilitate the soul’s proximity to God. Here al-Kāshānī means the soul in a technical sense, the soul as opposed to the heart, or the spirit, a distinction explained below. These properties of the soul—once acquired—allow the higher spiritual faculty, namely the heart (the vehicle of witnessing divine beauty), to become prepared for such proximity.36 In other words, while the fourth unit (on virtuous character traits) pertains to the soul, the fifth unit (on fundamentals of ascent) pertains to the heart. The former unit involves acquisition of traits of readiness, while the latter will begin the process of receiving the means of ascent toward the Real.37

 

  • A LATER INTERPRETER OF ANṢĀRĪ EXPLAINS THE SOUL, HEART, AND SPIRIT

Anṣārī relies on the terms soul, heart, and spirit, without much elucidation, seeming to assume that his audience knows what they mean. Some things are clear, however, from his discussions in the Waystations. First, as categories of human selfhood, the three are ranked. Initial ethical endeavors deal with counterbalancing and moving beyond the soul. Middling ethical endeavors deal with acquiring divine traits for the heart. And advanced ethical endeavors deal with annihilating oneself as one receives that which God has made inhere in the spirit. They appear described in the Waystations as follows. The soul (al-nafs) might be translated in Anṣārī’s writings as “ego” or even simply as “self.” It has certain innate flaws that hinder a wayfarer’s progress, flaws that—like the flaws in one’s deeds—become clearer as one progresses.38 It is trained through asceticism (al-riyāḍ.a), which includes refining character traits by knowing proper action.39 The soul must be distrusted, blamed, restrained from its desires, accommodated only to avoid its rebellion, kept busy, taken to account, and forgotten in times of remembrance of God (al-dhikr).40 The heart (al-qalb) can acquire light.41 It also attaches itself to “holy attributes.”42 It has an eye, with which it gazes on God’s blessings, and it finds life in having a hopeful view of God.43 Its perfection is to be ever-present with God.44 The spirit (al-rūḥ) also has an eye, which can see more directly than the heart’s eye, a witnessing of the divine that overwhelms the spirit.45 It can be awakened by the flashing of a pre-eternal light, by the sound of the first divine call to all souls, or by being drawn directly to the Real.46 It rejoices in hearing a reply from Him.47

Anṣārī’s descriptions do not, however, provide definitions for soul, heart, and spirit. Definitions are useful because these terms became essential to the study of Sufi moral psychology. One commentator on Anṣārī—ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī—explains these faculties in a manner that certainly would not reflect Anṣārī’s own understanding of waystations, since al-Kāshānī belongs to a later and more Neoplatonic school of thought in theoretical Sufism. It is useful, nevertheless, in seeing how some Sufis came to envision these faculties and interpret Anṣārī’s manual. Moreover, while such specialized usage would have been foreign to Anṣārī, the general contours do reflect patterns in the Waystations.

As al-Kāshānī explains elsewhere, the “soul” is the “vaporous substance that bears the faculty of life, love, and volitional movement.”48 It is an intermediary between the heart and the body. The soul develops in three general stages:

  1. In its inclinations to the bodily natures and pleasures, which are the sources of vice, it is called “the commanding soul” or the “soul that commands to evil” (al-nafs al-ammāra; see Q 12:53). A person’s sense of piety, obedience, and attention to God is under the command of the lower faculties, and hence that person has little success in drawing near to God. The commanding soul is the soul’s first stage.
  2. Then, as it takes on the luminescence of the heart, the soul begins to awaken from its heedlessness, but it is not decidedly awake; it wavers between seeking God and seeking creation.49 It bemoans its own dual inclinations and its failures to obey, as it struggles to seek God alone, for which reason it is called “the self-reproaching soul” (al-nafs al-lawwāma; see Q 75:2).
  3. Lastly, the soul conforms to the heart, having been unburdened of its lower traits and having acquired higher, virtuous traits. It is finally at peace in being present with God, so that it no longer vacillates, and it is here that God says to the soul, “O tranquil soul! Return to your lord, satisfied and satisfying; thus enter among My servants—enter My paradise!” (Q 89:27–30). For this reason, this soul is called “the tranquil soul” (al-nafs al-muṭmaʾinna).

Once the lower soul has been quelled, the path’s concern (and the concern of the Waystations) is the heart. In his commentary, al-Kāshānī tells us that the heart (al-qalb) is an incorporeal intermediary between the realm of creation and the realm of divinity.50 The “spirit” (al-rūḥ) is the purest component of human existence. The spirit is the effect of the divine inbreathing in the human frame that brings the human to physical and spiritual life (Q 15:29, 38:72).51

To explain all this, al-Kāshānī uses an allegorical verse of the Qurʾan (24:35):52

God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory for His light is [that it is] as a hollow in which is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is like a brilliant star, lit from a blessed olive tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil of which almost lights up without being touched by fire.

The soul must be purified; it is that human “self” that arises from being embodied. It is the oil-producing tree in al-Kāshānī’s reading of this parable, because oil is a fuel for light but is not itself luminous in the way that the lamp or glass are. Just as oil is an intermediary between matter and light, so too does the soul represent the conversion of bodily traits to spiritual ones. The spirit is a trace of divinity; it is pure light, even if it has become shaded by veils of human selfhood. It is the lamp in this allegory, that is, the source of light. Light itself—the very principle of luminosity—is God. Thus, the spirit is God’s light realized in the human being. The heart lies somewhere between soul and spirit. It is the human faculty that communicates with God and draws near to Him. For this reason, the heart is the glass in this allegory. Glass takes on light because some other source (here the lamp/spirit) shines through it. The glass/heart is not a source of light, but it can be lit up as though it were. It amplifies the light when clean, and dims it when tarnished. It becomes tarnished by the smoke of the oil, much like the heart becomes tarnished by associating itself with the desires of the soul. The oil-producing tree conveys light by yielding a substance that burns, while glass conveys light by being purely translucent. Similarly, the soul conveys light by yielding its animal properties, succumbing to spiritual duties, while the heart conveys light by being polished of the soul and transmitting the light of the spirit.

The Allegory of Light (soul, heart, and spirit), according to al-Kāshānī

Here we return to the matter of futuwwa, because, according to al-Kāshānī, futuwwa is among the highest stages for the soul, in preparation for the even higher adventures of the heart. Support for that appears in the fact that Anṣārī categorizes it among the “traits” (akhlāq), a term pertaining to the dispositions of the lower soul. Yet, as we will see, futuwwa does indeed have implications for the advanced, namely, those who have surpassed the stages of extinguishing the commands of the lower soul.

 

  • FUTUWWA IN THE HUNDRED FIELDS AND THE WAYSTATIONS

The word futuwwa captures etymologically the virtues of an “upstanding young man” (fatā) in a way loosely analogous to “chivalry,” which captures the heroic code of a “horseman” or a knight. In The Hundred Fields, Anṣārī describes futuwwa as occurring through “living freely.”53 An alternative translation might be “living in the noble manner of a free man.” Both translations should convey the idea that, for Anṣārī, the possessor of futuwwa (fatā) is bound only to God and not to the gratification of any other master, even himself. Futuwwa is, in The Hundred Fields, characterized by an inclination to humble action. Anṣārī divides futuwwa into three categories, based on the object of that futuwwa. Futuwwa applies to the self, to others (other created beings, here humans), and to the Real. Regarding the self, the possessor of futuwwa does not admire the lower soul’s self-seduction or its adornments, avoiding self-congratulation. Regarding others, he does not blame them or single them out and reject them for shortcomings that he should know exist in himself.54 Regarding the Real, he puts forth his best effort in terms of servitude.

In The Waystations of the Journeyers, Anṣārī’s expectations for the possessor of futuwwa have become greater. Futuwwa, as the penultimate waystation in his unit on virtuous “character traits,” builds upon the achievements before it. One sees this, for example, by considering the four waystations that precede futuwwa. Truthfulness (ṣidq) is a purification of selfhood; altruism (īthār) is choosing others over oneself; character (khulq) is engaging lovingly with others; humility (tawāḍuʿ) is minimizing the self; and then one arrives at futuwwa. Futuwwa means being a leader in selflessness. Relief from the battles of the self, or “enjoyment” (inbisāṭ), follows futuwwa and in a way feeds these waystations coming before it, giving the journeyer the strength to move forward to the fundamentals (uṣūl) of ascent. The crux of futuwwa, for Anṣārī, is that one sees no virtue as applying to oneself, nor any due or right that belongs to oneself. The world owes such a person nothing. And, conversely, the person owes absolutely everything to something else, having nothing of himself or herself, ultimately owing all to God. The lowest achievement of futuwwa is to be incredibly forbearing regarding others. One does not quarrel, find fault, or hold grudges. One should feel a sense of embarrassment when an enemy apologizes or seeks forgiveness to even “whiff the scent” of futuwwa.55 This is the sort of futuwwa that applies to the common. For the elite, futuwwa means drawing those who have wronged you to yourself, honoring those who have insulted you, and apologizing on behalf of those who have done you injustice, “not out of self-restraint,” says Anṣārī, but “with vastness of heart” that exceeds mere “toleration.”56

The highest achievement of futuwwa in the Waystations is to transcend the intellect, since the intellect has no ability to witness divine beauty. Here the magnanimity and altruism of futuwwa have been translated into an earnest redirection of the self toward God. In the beginning sort of futuwwa, one abandons selfishness and seeks out one’s oppressors or enemies for the sake of forgiving them, embodying selfless action. In the higher, more elite sort of futuwwa, a person abandons all the intellectual resources of the self, all causality, and rejects any substitute for the One who has answered his or her call. For this reason, anyone who pursues the truth using rational argumentation cannot be a possessor of futuwwa in this last, highest sense. One sees that Anṣārī’s opposition to rationalists stems not only from his traditionalist convictions, but also from his understanding of the spiritual path: Futuwwa as a self-aware selflessness means acknowledging the limits of one’s ability to know.

  • A HISTORY OF FUTUWWA

As in English ballads about Robin Hood or contemporary American mafia films, sometimes cultures celebrate those heroes who undermine the imposed social order while still adhering to a moral code of their own.57 Virtues such as courage, loyalty, guardianship of the weak, and generosity prevail over conformity to unjust authority. The rise of futuwwa as a Muslim virtue began in such a context. While possibly extending earlier into pre-Islamic Iranian values, the notion of futuwwa became first widely known and lauded in its association with groups of men—at one point known as ʿayyārān (“vagabonds”)—famous for robbery, adherence to a strict code of truthfulness, advocacy of the preservation of women’s honor, and distinctive dress, specifically, initiatory trousers.58

Lloyd Ridgeon’s study of the topic tells us that as the term futuwwa became distinct from bands of young fighting men and idealized as a virtue, it was applied to a set of qualities that would describe an upstanding young man (or fatā). As a virtue, futuwwa has a composite quality, comprising multiple virtues that might be mentioned by Miskawayh or others.59 There are clusters of attributes to define futuwwa, though sincerity, truthfulness, independence, and guarding against sexual transgression are constant in defining it.60 Two virtues, however, seem to form the backbone of this compound virtue, especially in earlier Sufi texts such as Sulamī’s Book on Futuwwa (Kitāb al-Futuwwa): courage and self-worth. Courage leads to the sort of valor one associates with combat and the welcome risk of hazard. Courage also leads to truthfulness. One who fears no one has no motivation to lie or to be hypocritical. Self-worth, as an awareness of one’s responsibilities and one’s worth in having such responsibilities, checks any inclinations to treachery—whether that means backstabbing, or violating the privacy or chastity of women under someone else’s protection. True self-worth also means that one does not overestimate one’s states or deeds, or become self-satisfied, smug, or arrogant.61 This dual sense of courage and self-worth brings a person to be respectful and self-sacrificing, generous and independent of the favors of others.

Futuwwa as a compound virtue became “spiritualized,” to use Ridgeon’s term, in the Malāmatī and Sufi traditions, especially in Persian Sufism, as can be seen in the sayings of Abū al-Ḥaṣan Kharaqānī (d. 1034). Kharaqānī was a Sufi master legendary for his lack of schooling and his piercing wisdom. That wisdom had a transformative effect on our own Anṣārī, when at age twenty-seven he met Kharaqānī in 1033.62 Kharaqānī’s presentation of futuwwa influenced even later Sufis, such as Ibn ʿArabī, but the more immediate resemblance to Anṣārī’s discussion of futuwwa should be plain.63 When asked about the possessor of futuwwa, who in Persian is called a jawānmard (“young man”), Kharaqānī responds that it is “the person who pitches a tent at the side of hell on Judgement Day and takes the hand of the person that the Real has sent to hell.”64 In other words, the true possessor of futuwwa is self-sacrificing even when faced with eternal damnation and daring even when faced with the decree of God. The food and drink of such a person is “love for God,” and he is unable to see his own good deeds because of his submergence in the sea of his remembrance of God.65 For Sulamī, futuwwa is typified by Abraham, who faces execution bravely in his resistance to idolatry as a “young man” (fatā) in the Qurʾan.66 This connection between Abraham, thrown into a massive fire for his idol-smashing monotheism, and the values of futuwwa can even be found in a contemporary commentary on the Waystations by an Egyptian Sufi-Shādhilī writer, Sayyid Maḥmūd Abū al-Fayd. al-Manūfī.67 Yet what Ridgeon calls the “patron saint” of futuwwa was ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, as can be seen in the writings of the most influential Sunni commentator on futuwwa, Shihāb al-Dīn ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī (d. 1234), not to be confused with the philosopher in Chapter Five. In support of his focus on ʿAlī among other pious predecessors, he quotes a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that “there is no young man (fatā) but ʿAlī.”68

In terms of the fraternities associated with the ideal of futuwwa, Erik Ohlander has shown that futuwwa as an institution received pivotal elaboration in the writings of al-Suhrawardī. This great codifier of Sufism seems to have tied an existing sort of fraternity, the futuwwa order, to another fraternity for which he was an authority, namely the residential Sufi order, that is, the Sufi order as an intentional community cohabiting a cloister (ribāṭ). The futuwwa order and futuwwa communal residences had laxer requirements than their Sufi counterparts.69 Futuwwa orders as described by al-Suhrawardī were very much brotherhoods, with hierarchies and processes of initiation couched in patrilineal language that assumes male participation.70

 

  • MANLINESS AS VIRTUE

The ideal of futuwwa comes to exist within a patriarchal context. In that regard, it shares something in common with our English word “virtue.” After all, “virtue” derives from the Latin virtus, from the word vir “man,” so that virtus can be translated as “manliness.”71 As Myles McDonnell notes, manhood in most of the world’s cultures must be earned, and the Romans, who were no exception, initially used the word virtus as the attribute of valor on the battlefield.72 Influenced by Greek usage of the word arete to mean “moral excellence,” the Romans eventually extended the application of virtus to mean an all-inclusive excellence in the ethical sense.73 The moral trait associated with women was pudicitia, or “chaste modesty,” and virtus did not generally apply to women (or to slaves), except on rare occasions when women were thought to act as bravely as men, or after the word had come to signify a broader ethical excellence.74 Retaining its original connotation, the word virtus also comes to refer to ethical excellence in opposition to vice by the century before Christ, during the late Roman Republic, as notions of manhood begin to be less defined by military prowess than by qualities of self-control that characterized urban nobility.75

It is important to note that the Arabic and Persian analogue for virtus would not be futuwwa, but rather a virtue related to futuwwa, namely, muruwwa or “manliness.” Muruwwa was, according to Ignaz Goldziher, the paramount compound virtue of pre-Islamic Arabia. Goldziher surveys textual evidence to contrast pre- and post-Islamic values, beginning with muruwwa, which he describes as a largely Bedouin value that emphasizes personal and tribal glory, the protection of those under one’s care, hospitality, and retaliation.76 The Prophet Muhammad, Goldziher argues, reframed the Arabian notion of manliness in a God-conscious context that gave priority to asceticism, sobriety, and forgiveness.77 Toshihiko Izutsu takes special interest in the idea that “old Arab” values became translated into “Islamic” ones, and reminds us that the notion of “man” in a word like “manliness” is not universal and must be interpreted differently depending on such socially contingent circumstances.78

What is Anṣārī’s notion of manliness, then? Clearly, freedom and humility feature prominently in his notion of futuwwa, which might literally be translated as “youngmanliness.” Concerning manliness itself, Anṣārī does include muruwwa in The Hundred Fields, though not in his Waystations. This seems to be because he integrates the traits of muruwwa into his later discussion of futuwwa, divvying the traits of muruwwa among the waystations of futuwwa and those leading up to it, such as satisfaction (riḍā), gratitude (shukr), and character (khulq). Anṣārī defines muruwwa as “being responsible and living righteously.”79 He explains that this means living in a way that is intelligent toward oneself, patient toward others, and needy toward God. In terms of interactions with others, Anṣārī emphasizes being satisfied with others according to their abilities, accepting their apologies, and seeking justice on their behalf to the extent of one’s power. With futuwwa, the seeker goes beyond helping others in this world, instead interceding for them with God, and goes beyond tolerating others’ faults, instead remaining constantly mindful of one’s own faults. Futuwwa is a more amplified realization of muruwwa.

Even though Anṣārī’s notions of manliness and futuwwa are abstract to the point that they could apply to women, they remain in a patriarchal framework. He introduces the waystation of futuwwa by alluding to the Qurʾanic narrative about a group of “young men” (fitya), stalwart in their belief and in their opposition to polytheism, who miraculously slumbered in their cave of refuge for three centuries (Q 18:13). Of course, it seems that Anṣārī reads the verse’s description that “they were young men who believed in their lord” as “they were possessors of futuwwa who believed in their lord,” a reading that could be applied to males or females. Nevertheless, Anṣārī here seems to echo the patriarchal theme of “great men” that one finds in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures, one that also drives, for example, Sulamī’s glorification of prophets and saints as exemplars of futuwwa in his Book on Futuwwa.

It deserves mention, however, that Sulamī did present a female version of futuwwa, captured in the term al-niswān or “female possessors of futuwwa,” a notion that predates Sulamī by “at least a century.”80 They are mentioned in Sulamī’s book Early Sufi Women (Dhikr al-Niswa al-Mutaʿabbidāt al-Ṣufiyyāt). The many names and deeds of female ascetics, worshippers, and knowers indicate that women pursued the divine with a vigor no less than that of men, even if they remained mostly unacknowledged and even if certain male saints disliked hearing their accounts.81 Yet, as Rkia Cornell has argued, even Sulamī’s commemoration of great women falls under the category of “exceptionalism,” such that female achievement amounts to a rarity, and male achievement is a universal normalcy.82 Such exceptionalism is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the case of the hagiographical account of the great female saint and lover of God, Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya, in ʿAṭṭār’s Memorial of Saints (Tadhkirat al-Awliyāʾ). ʿAṭṭār includes in his chapter on Rābiʿa a careful justification for including a woman among the “ranks of men,” by commenting that according to the Hadith “God gives no notice to your forms”; that two-thirds of Hadith narrations come from the Prophet’s wife ʿĀʾisha; and that “when a woman is a man on the path to God the Exalted, she cannot be called a woman.”83 ʿAṭṭār’s acknowledgement of the ontological illusoriness of gender aside, this is exceptionalism at its best.

Yet futuwwa and muruwwa have been far too central to Sufi and even Islamic ethics to be left in the fetters of masculinity. Indeed, according to ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī, muruwwa must be acquired before one attains futuwwa, and futuwwa must be acquired before one attains the highest rank in Sufi relationships with God, namely sainthood (walāya).84 Sa‘diyya Shaikh has reassessed Sufi readings of gender, bringing to light traditional Islamic/Sufi grounds for social and ethical gender equality. According to Ibn ʿArabī, women possess the capacity for complete spiritual realization, even including the rank of the Complete Human (al-insān al-kāmil), but not only in a spiritual sense: Their perfection can even effect ritual imitation and create divine-legal precedence.85 Ibn ʿArabī acknowledges the social situatedness of gender, establishing that human perfection is ungendered.86 Thus, terms such as f

Thus, terms such as futuwwa or rijāl (“men”) can begin in a gendered context, but be reapplied to signify human perfections in ungendered ways.87 With Shaikh’s argument in consideration, one might use futuwwa and muruwwa—and the less frequent term for “manliness,” rujūliyya—to describe the finest human qualities applicable to everyone, while the terms still remain firmly rooted in Islamic and specifically Sufi ontologies and narratives of creation.

  • WHAT IS A QALANDAR?

The theme of futuwwa will be explored below in a treatise attributed to Anṣārī called Qalandar-nāma, meaning “The Treatise on the Qalandar.” The term qalandarī originally referred to those associated with a certain place of ill-repute, where errant souls gathered and participated in music and other morally questionable activities.88 It later came to be a part of a constellation of terms that referred to wandering mendicants and antinomian ascetics, these terms including darwīsh (“pauper”), malāmatī (“blame-seeker,” altered from its original historical sense), and—later—rind (“roguish drunkard”) and qallāsh (“rascal”).89 One can see how the values of the qalandar tie into those of futuwwa: Truthfulness, courage, independence, and devotion to the divine beloved lead to the qalandar’s sincerity. The qalandar is so focused on his divine beloved that he pays no heed to the scrutiny of others. In Qurʾanic terms, the qalandar in love with God does not “fear the blame of any blamer” (Q 5:54), a phrase often applied to qalandars, malāmatīs, and other outcast-lovers of God.90

Thus, he engages in activities disapproved of by society, such as wandering, begging, wearing chains, and shaving his facial hair.91 The core of futuwwa also lies in hiding one’s virtues, according to al-Manūfī.92 Much as one might show wilting flowers to jealous onlookers, protecting the beautiful flowers in the bunch for the beloved, the possessor of futuwwa preserves inner ethical beauties by displaying his or her shortcomings for others—a disguise that allows for ethical development unimpeded by the threat of self-admiration and devoted to the divine beloved alone. It is an approach to love taken to its extreme by the antiheroic saint Ḥusayn ibn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj, who described (probably apocryphally) futuwwa as embodied by three God-adoring outlaws hated by society: himself, the Pharaoh (of Exodus), and Satan.93

The pseudo-Anṣārī author of Qalandar-nāma lauds the practices of wandering and begging associated with the qalandar. In the second half of the treatise, which I have not included in the translated segment, the Anṣārī persona encourages men young and old to “go and survey the world in many expeditions”: “Break the chains of lunacy by taking a step of wisdom and discovering the hidden secret; circumambulate the world, so that by begging you can become a man, a person who has experienced pain.”94

The freedom of spirit that Anṣārī attributes to futuwwa can be seen here. To wander the world with only the clothes on one’s back takes courage and independence, traits that he associates with becoming “a man.” Moreover, evoking a recurring theme in Sufi writings, begging breaks one of arrogance. For this reason, masters sometimes assigned begging to Sufi initiates, especially those who were wealthy or haughty.95 Begging endows a young man with humility and sincerity: “Listen, boy! If you are a man of the path, then be a beggar at the door / And, in dirt-kissing humility, be like the boot at every step.”96 Embodying Anṣārī’s advice, the “qalandar” in this text cares little what others think of him. Dismissed as having lost his mind, he walks his own path, even living in the wilderness. Yet his sense of independence endows him with more wisdom than those who absorb themselves in bookish learning.

  • THE TREATISE ON THE QALANDAR: AN AUTHORSHIP PROBLEM

This discussion will conclude by exploring futuwwa in a text that is probably not by Anṣārī.97 Rather, it is a text that an admirer of Anṣārī seems to have written, in which the great master has become the protagonist in a narrative attributed to him. Hence the treatise informs us most likely not of the historical Anṣārī but of his intellectual, religious, and literary legacy, somewhat akin to “the pastoral epistles” written in the voice of St. Paul.98

The text translated here is an homage, a reverential forgery. It brings together Anṣārī’s ethical theory, his constructed biography, and his reputed writing style. Hence the text might even be considered Anṣārī’s own from one perspective. Michel Foucault indicates ways in which an author’s name attached to a text has a “classificatory function,” the “author function,” one that assures the text’s place as a circulated and valued occasion of language.99 The author of the Qalandar-nāma seems to have had such functions of the author in mind. By exploring Anṣārī as both character and author, such “forgers” created texts with guarantees of value and longevity. This also tells us that Anṣārī as an author became an enduring figure with distinct characteristics in the history of Sufism, as occurred for other figures in Sufism.100

The author’s care in creating a viable “Anṣārī-persona” is astonishing. There is the writing style famously attributed to Anṣārī and made popular by the ethicist Saʿdī of Shiraz, one of rhymed and unrhymed Persian prose interspersed with poetry. There is also the theme—taken from Anṣārī’s biography—of the seeker pulled in two directions, between the love of studying scripture and the disavowal of scholarly prestige. This is captured not only in the narrative, but also in the text’s repeated focus on the Qurʾan and on scholarly Arabic sources. Extending biographical motifs, the qalandar’s ability to jolt Anṣārī’s consciousness clearly resembles narratives about Anṣārī’s meetings with the mysterious Kharaqānī. The qalandar’s itinerant lifestyle parallels that of Anṣārī’s own absentee father, who pursued the uninhibited life of contemplation.101 Lastly, the idealization of springtime in this text mirrors Anṣārī’s penchant for seasonal metaphors (especially the “spring” of the soul) and his own comments that, having been born in spring, he “loves spring dearly.”102

The narrative is also in some ways a commentary on Anṣārī’s discussions of futuwwa, epitomizing Anṣārī’s definition of it as “living freely.” This selected portion is a translation of the first half of the Qalandar-nāma, the narrative portion. The second half develops the themes in this selection through didactic-homiletic poetry, along with advice in rhymed prose.

  • TRANSLATION: QALANDAR-NĀMA (“THE TREATISE ON THE QALANDAR”)

In the name of God the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

All thanks and praise belong to the deity who is the creator of earth and time, who opens up vocal cords and puts the tongue to speech. So says the author of this composition, whose heart has been plundered, the poor elder (pīr) of storekeeping stock, ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī:

This occurred back in the beginnings of my education, when I sought proofs in strands of knowledge, and when in seeking the comprehensive secret, moments were not wasted. One day, while enduring repetition and pondering mysteries, I sat in school with a thousand Satanic suggestions in my heart. A qalandar came through the door, who ruled the Kingdom of Contentment like an Alexander. He wore felt and had imbibed passionate love. Like a fairy’s, his face was rosy. He greeted me and began to speak. Virtuous seekers of knowledge and peddlers of transmitted words have failed to notice insights such as those he shared, despite their uttering sayings about the divine essence and attributes.

The qalandar said:

Hey all of you, forsaken and stuck in the mud of the river’s silt! Weary laggards bogged down in shouldn’t-have and can’t! You have only insults for the Sufis and curses for the common people. What are these Hadith-transmitting pretensions you transmit to others? What are these claims that everything is “no”?! Till when will your guidance and setting others straight look like this? Is there not among you a rightly guided man (Q 11:78)? If only you had passed through these places and abandoned these homes, you would have plunged into the waters of acquisition, so that your interiors would have been verdant meadows. Refrain from disparaging elders, and you will become roses without thorns. Anyone who disparages elders will quickly become fuel for the fires.

The slow-sprouting seed in its infancy will, in short time and small space, shoot up and grow into a mature plant, a one-hundred-year-old tree.

The tree will show itself to the people of the world, saying: “I am the one who, in my infancy and in this lowly place, revealed my beauty from beneath this veil of soil and outpaced both [infancy and ground] in capturing the reed-shaft.”

The tree continues: “Alas, you have exposed yourself out of self-conceit! Don’t be juvenile. Take things slowly. While you might be on display for a few days, you lack proper conduct (adab). You will fall headlong. Remain until by the divine command, from which you can find such things as a harsh, icy wind in the summer month of Tīr,103 you find yourself fallen and me standing upright. What I’ve said is all-encompassing, but it needs an innermost heart that listens. O young one, if you have dignity, then do not find fault with the elderly, for youth is nothing but shortcoming and distance, while old age is the realization of ‘white hair is light.’”104

O you attached—like the second of a pair—to the head of a walking cane, good tidings!

Tidings for knowledge, clemency, wisdom, and the secret of all land creatures.

The planting of optimism and cultivating of hope in this day and age

have been quenched by your liberality as if by the clouds.

I’d guess that from the splendors of virtue in the moments of your youth

there are books, of yours, that would be a load for many camels.

Don’t deem the old broken man to be contemptible.

Haven’t you heard that treasure lies concealed beneath the ruins?

O Anṣārī! We have seen a person in the time of youth

shatter, like the nearest ones, the rock of self-annihilation.

We threw down our books and gave our full attention to the qalandar. That good-natured soul placed before us everything he carried of ready or valuable tales, or the wonders of every town, bringing all of us to cling to his skirt for his assistance and to seek refuge in his domain. We begged him to pray for us—although the human has nothing except that for which he strives (Q 53:39). Once the sun began to depart, this wretch before you, ʿAbdallāh, ran after him, until the chain [of devotion connecting us] led me to a mountain. There, sometimes, his eyes would fall upon me unexpectedly. I put my head at his feet and released a wellspring of tears. After I wailed loudly and wept for a long time, I said: “O good-natured treasure among the derelict! Give me some advice from the Decisive Book [the Qurʾan], so that the demented might become sane and the moth might burn in the flame.”

He said:

O ʿAbdallāh! The path of religion is a rough one. They [were so taken aback by the daring of Abraham to insult the idols of their forefathers that they] said: Have you brought us the truth, or are you among those who jest? (Q. 21:55) Indeed, in practice there are marvelous secrets, and “the effectiveness of a sword depends entirely on the one who wields it.”105 Knowledge coupled with practice is like the sun in the [spring-announcing] Aries. Knowledge that increases one in arrogance is like a tree that bears no fruit. Those suited to virtues who incline toward vices in their objectives and aims will find that God has increased their hearts in disease (Q. 2:10). Do not, out of curiosity, become beguiled by excess, and Satan is a deserting traitor for the human (Q 25:29). If you pay no heed, then you will be a staunch disbeliever, like the donkey bearing scrolls (Q 71:27 and 62:5). Since you won’t come back to life and since the Day of Resurrection lies ahead, get moving! In this borrowed life, you don’t want to be credited with disgrace, for the worldly is a gratification unattainable and a ruin best forsaken (Q 13:26). If you’ve washed the face of the heart and begun to seek knowledge from religion, then renounce the worldly and kick out from your heart the love you have for it, lest you fail in salvation because the worldly has become the most pressing matter for you. And the Hereafter is even greater in terms of differences in degrees of merit (Q 17:21).

That love-mad one then stopped speaking. He disappeared into the wilderness. From that time onward I have strived, but I have not become victorious over the self, and for this winter I have seen no sign of a vernal equinox.106

See also: The Qalandar in the Persianate World: the Case of Fakhrod-din Arāqi

and Sacred Stones in Qalandariyya and Bektashism

 

 

 

 

 

  • FUTUWWA AND THE QALANDAR: CONCLUSIONS

This treatise invites its audience to have the constancy, stillness, wisdom, and unselfishness more typical of the elderly, even in one’s youth. Despite one’s lack of experience and knowledge, and despite the urge to receive glory from others, a youth should learn rather than try to preach, absorb rather than reach for renown. Moreover, ethical practice (in the form of respect for elders) will yield knowledge. The study of religious sciences could offer the young Anṣārī and his cohort great acclaim. An old vagrant offers them a glimpse of their future should they choose that route: They can haughtily reach for the sky, challenging their place in existence, and fall like an uprooted tree. Conversely, they can lower themselves and become humble sages. Here is implied the theme of “transcending the intellect” that Anṣārī establishes as the highest reach of the trait of futuwwa. Of course, Anṣārī’s intentions are for those at the furthest end of spiritual development, who must renounce what they know by reason to appreciate what they see by the heart. Nevertheless, the problems with knowledge are similar. Especially troublesome for the qalandar is the sense that these young students use their knowledge to judge others, instead of scrutinizing their own shortcomings. Acknowledging one’s moral flaws while excusing the flaws of others is essential to futuwwa, according to both Anṣārī and Sulamī.107 Learning has made them interested in restricting the freedoms of others, while they should be exploring the freedoms of themselves—freedoms from all forms of worldliness.

As mentioned, futuwwa is a compound virtue, one that involves a sense of truthfulness and sincerity. The wandering qalandar clearly possesses truthfulness (ṣidq), in other words, a complete lack of pretense, hypocrisy, spite for others, or even concern for the admiration of others. Indifference to the scrutiny of others seems to be his defining trait. The metaphors in this treatise associate him with madness and wilderness, highlighting his place outside of social norms. Anṣārī’s most profound commentary on such sincere truthfulness appears in the Waystations, as he compares a person’s ethical makeup to clothes.108 If your clothes are yours, then your deeds, states, and aims will be subject to God’s satisfaction. If, however, your clothes are “borrowed,” then your good deeds are sins; your truest states are lies; and your purest aims lead to nowhere. To have “borrowed clothes” means to have a false veneer, an ethical makeup that has elements of pretense.109 The qalandar’s invitation to the young men is to shed these clothes of pretense and act in a sense of pure devotion to God.

Lastly, there is the important theme of respect for the elderly. Obviously those endowed with futuwwa protect the weak and defenseless, but the qalandar tells them to go beyond that. They are to learn from and imitate the person thought of as weak and defenseless, namely the old man. With age comes experience, and it is experience that outshines all other kinds of knowledge according to the qalandar, especially the knowledge of limits and religious injunctions found in books. While it might be strange to associate old age with such a sense of adventure, the treatise does so by preferring experiential learning to rote religious learning. The treatise encourages its audience to travel and to beg, to give themselves to the wide-open possibility of owning nothing. The qalandar exhorts the young men to embrace the courage needed to live freely, and—as will be recalled—living freely is the essence of futuwwa according to Anṣārī.

As a wise old man recalling a youthful moment of conversion, the Anṣārī persona in all of this is both a seeker and a master sought by others. He tells us of a time when he was lost and of a time when he was guided, but he also guides us, referring to himself as the “elder” or “master” (pīr). In this is the implication that experience becomes transmitted through human guidance. To attain futuwwa and other virtues, a young man needs an elder master, a shaykh of the way, or even a wandering ecstatic figure who awakens something within the person—as Kharaqānī is legendarily said to have done with Anṣārī. Ironically, the youths here learn how to be daring from an old man, who teaches them that the bravest action a youth can take is to turn his back on the worldly and put knowledge into sincere practice.

NOTES

1 Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 336. Jāmī’s hagiographical compendium describing Anṣārī’s life was, as a whole, greatly influenced by Anṣārī’s own Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣūfiyya. See Algar, Jami, pp. 104–5.

2 Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 337.

3 Ibid., p. 344; Anṣārī Hirawī, Stations of the Sufi Path, pp. 26–7.

4 Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, pp. 338–9.

5 Ibid., p. 339.

6 Beaurecueil, Khwādja ʿAbdullāh Anṣārī, pp. 87, 89.

7 Ibid., p. 112.

8 Mojaddedi, The Biographical Tradition in Sufism, p. 69; the translation has been altered for consistency with usage here.

9 Lipton, “Secular Sufism,” pp. 431–3. Concerning Ḥanbalī Sufism, see the bibliography for a number of essays by George Makdisi.

10 Ibn Qayyim echoed Ibn Taymiyya’s critical assessment of Anṣārī, because, for them, Anṣārī’s occasional preference for spiritual insight over traditionalist literalism left enough ambiguity for a group of Sufis with heretical monistic tendencies to appropriate his thought. See Anjum, “Sufism without Mysticism?” pp. 164, 166.

11 Farhādi, ʿAbdullāh Anṣārī of Herāt, pp. 12–13.

12 The treatise by al-Nūrī is called Risālat Maqāmāt al-Qulūb, edited by Paul Nwyia in “Textes mystiques inédites d’Abū-l-Ḥasan al-Nūrī,” pp. 130–43.

13 Al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, pp. 7–8 (Bīdārfar’s introduction).

14 See al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, pp. 2:143–5. The Manāhij as reprinted here was originally edited by Etan Kohlberg in 1979.

15 Ibid., pp. 2:156–7. See also al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 17 (Bīdārfar’s introduction).

16 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 4. I prefer Muḥammad ʿAmmār Mufīd’s edition to that edited by Ibrāhīm ʿAṭwa ʿAwad. (Cairo: Maktabat Jaʿfar al-Ḥadītha, 1977), based on the former editor’s careful assessment of multiple manuscripts.

17 Anṣārī Hirawī, Ṣad Maydān, p. 1:256.

18 Ibid., p. 1:256, citing Q 37:164.

19 Ibid., pp. 1:256–7.

20 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 4. In Sufi terms, this combination of consistency and variability results from a situation in which the Divine Beloved is one, while the lovers are various. Compare Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge, p. 334.

21 Al-Kāshānī, Iṣṭilāḥāt al-Ṣūfiyya, p. 21.

22 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 214, no. 72.

23 Al-Tilimsānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 2:546.

24 Al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 638. Waqt can refer both to a general phenomenon that occurs throughout one’s journey and also to one specific waystation. See Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 214, no. 72. Anṣārī also uses the term “state” (ḥāl) in two ways: as a general phenomenon and in a more specific sense, applying to waystations that are divine bestowals, not earned through exertion. See al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 563.

25 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 4.

26 Ibid., p. 142, no. 44. As William Chittick indicates, love frames the entirety of Anṣārī’s stations and is located as a later waystation (no. 61) only because of the preliminaries involved. See Chittick, Divine Love, pp. 292–3.

27 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 4. See also Brown, “The Last Days of al-Ghazzālī and the Tripartite Division of the Sufi World,” pp. 97–106. Some excellent sources on the use of the tripartite structure by another Ḥanbalī figure, Abū Manṣūr Muʿammar al-Iṣfahānī (d. 1027), appear in Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, p. 102, n. 103.

28 See Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 83, no. 23; p. 101, no. 30.

29 See ibid., pp. 143–4, no. 45.

30 See al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 449.

31 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 4. See also his discussions on p. 138, no. 43, and p. 142, no. 44.

32 Ibid., p. 4.

33 Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, pp. 161–2, 14. Maybudī also features prominently in Chittick’s Divine Love.

34 Anṣārī Hirawī, Stations of the Sufi Path, pp. 42, 45. In this book Nahid Angha has provided a complete translation of The Hundred Fields, along with a very useful introduction and appendices. See also Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, p. 113.

35 See Dallh, “Path to the Divine,” p. 468.

36 Al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 424.

37 Ibid., p. 424.

38 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 19, no. 2; p. 55, no. 14.

39 Ibid., p. 40, no. 9.

40 Ibid., p. 23, no. 3; p. 58, no. 15; p. 92, no. 27; p. 66, no. 18; p. 54, no. 13; p. 92, no. 27; p. 174, no. 58; p. 148, no. 47 (citing Q 18:24); p. 45, no. 11.

41 Ibid., p. 15, no. 1.

42 Ibid., p. 192, no. 63.

43 Ibid., p. 15, no. 1; p. 240, no. 83; p. 257, no. 91.

44 Ibid., p. 183, no. 61.

45 Ibid., p. 240, no. 83; p. 200, no. 67.

46 Ibid., p. 198, no. 66.

47 Ibid., p. 219, no. 74.

48 Al-Kāshānī, Iṣṭilāḥāt al-Ṣūfiyya, p. 82.

49 Ibid., p. 82.

50 Al-Kāshānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 424.

51 Al-Kāshānī, Iṣṭilāḥāt al-Ṣūfiyya, pp. 65, 32.

52 Ibid., p. 65.

53 Anṣārī Hirawī, Ṣad Maydān, p. 1:261.

54 Ibid., p. 1:261.

55 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 127, no. 39.

56 Ibid., p. 127, no. 39.

57 Nochimson, “Waddaya Lookin’ At?” pp. 3–6. Robert Irwin draws fascinating parallels between futuwwa, especially in Egyptian literature and film, and the Godfather film series in “Futuwwa,” pp. 162–3.

58 Ridgeon, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism, pp. 11–12, 77–80. The figure of Fuḍāyl ibn ʿIyād. (d. 803) is often mentioned as an early leader in futuwwa, one who was also ostensibly a “bandit” or ʿayyār. See Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, p. 108; Ridgeon, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism, p. 18. Keeler’s corresponding note (p. 118, n. 10) includes many useful sources on the history of futuwwa not mentioned here.

59 Such “comprehensive virtues” can be found described in classical Islamic texts, such as in Shiʿi literature: “Nobility (karam) is a comprehensive term (kalima jāmiʿa) for praiseworthy character traits (akhlāq maḥmūda),” says ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā Bahāʾ al-Dīn al-Irbilī (d. 1293–4). Attributed to ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib himself is the saying “Manliness (muruwwa) is a comprehensive term (ism jāmiʿ) for the other virtues (al-faḍāʾil) and merits (al-maḥāsin).” For the first, see al-Irbilī, Kashf al-Ghumma, p. 2:23. For the second, see al-Laythī al-Wāsiṭī, ʿUyūn al-Ḥikam, p. 67.

60 See Abū Saʿīd al-Kharrāz’s definition, for example, in al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, p. 2:279. The Kitāb al-Futuwwa has been translated by Sheikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti as The Book of Sufi Chivalry.

61 Al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, p. 2:272.

62 Farhādi, ʿAbdullāh Anṣārī of Herāt, pp. 8, 13.

63 Ridgeon, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism, p. 52–4.

64 Ibid., p. 47. The translation is Ridgeon’s, but the word al-Ḥaqq has been modified for consistency with this book.

65 Ibid., p. 48–9.

66 Al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, p. 2:227.

67 This point is illustrated through a poem by Ḍiyāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad al-Gharnāṭī of Alexandria (d. 1287–8). See al-Manūfī al-Ḥusaynī, Kitāb al-Tamkīn fī Sharḥ Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 151.

68 Ridgeon, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism, pp. 66–9.

69 These laxer requirements in Sufism are called rukhaṣ (sing. rukhṣa), as opposed to the more demanding standards of ʿazāʾim (sing. ʿazīma). The terms are borrowed from the language of legal scholars.

70 Ohlander, Sufism in an Age of Transition, pp. 286–291.

71 McDonnell, Roman Manliness, p. 2.

72 Ibid., pp. 10, 71.

73 Ibid., p. 110.

74 Barton, Roman Honor, p. 41; McDonnell, Roman Manliness, pp. 159–65.

75 McDonnell, Roman Manliness, pp. 293, 330.

76 Goldziher, Muslim Studies, p. 1:22.

77 Ibid, p. 1:29.

78 Izutsu, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qurʾān, pp. 27–8.

79 Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil-i Fārsī, p. 1:259.

80 See Rkia Cornell’s comments in al-Sulamī, Early Sufi Women, pp. 66–7. Two female saints—Āmina al-Marjiyya and Fāṭima al-Khānaqahiyya—are counted among those practitioners of the male version of futuwwa, because of their vows to maintain male Sufi possessors of futuwwa (called fityān). See al-Sulamī, Early Sufi Women, pp. 67–8 and 254–7.

81 It is reported that Abū Ḥafṣ ʿUmar al-Ḥaddād al-Nīsābūrī (d. ca. 879–84) “used to dislike stories about the practitioners of female chivalry [futuwwa]” until he met Umm ʿAlī Fāṭima, the wife of Aḥmad ibn Kaḍrawayh al-Balkhī (d. 854). See al-Sulamī, Early Sufi Women, p. 168.

82 See Cornell, “Soul of a Woman Was Created Below,” p. 266, as well as Heilbrun, Writing a Woman’s Life, p. 81, as quoted in Cornell, “Soul of a Woman,” p. 266.

83 ʿAṭṭār, Tadhkirat al-Awliyāʾ, p. 61.

84 Murata, The Tao of Islam, p. 268.

85 Shaikh, Sufi Narratives of Intimacy, pp. 82–3.

86 Ibid., p. 216.

87 ibid., p. 218.

88 Shafīʿī-Kadkanī, Qalandariyya dar Tārīkh, p. 44.

89 Karamustafa, “Antinomian Sufis,” pp. 108–10.

90 The connection between love and the qalandar is made well by J. T. P. de Bruijn in Persian Sufi Poetry, pp. 71–6.

91 Karamustafa, “Antinomian Sufis,” p. 117. Khachik Gevorgyan makes mention of connections between qalandars and the futuwwa tradition: See “Futuwwa Varieties and the futuwwat-nāma literature,” p. 10.

92 Al-Manūfī al-Ḥusaynī, Kitāb al-Tamkīn fī Sharḥ Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, pp. 147–8.

93 See Ridgeon, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism, pp. 28–9; Shafīʿī-Kadkanī, Qalandariyya dar Tārīkh, p. 115.

94 Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil-i Fārsī, p. 2:639.

95 Algar, “Begging ii.”

96 Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil-i Fārsī, p. 2:641.

97 Muḥammad-Riḍā Shafīʿī-Kadkanī argues that the term for a qalandar individual in Anṣārī’s time would be qalandarī, while qalandar itself referred to the gathering place for these social outsiders until sometime after the mid-thirteenth century. See Shafīʿī-Kadkanī, Qalandariyya dar Tārīkh, pp. 40–2, 307. See also Utas, “The Munājāt or Ilāhī-nāmah of ʿAbduʾllāh Anṣārī,” pp. 84–5. Although Bo Utas does not mention the Qalandar-nāma, he does discuss a category of texts that applies. He rightfully notes that the Waystations is the only work attributed to Anṣārī that is indubitably his. The scribe of this treatise notes that the version that he writes was completed “in the latter part of Rabīʿ al-Ākhir in the year 852 [June or July of 1448].” See Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil-i Fārsī, p. 1:642.

98 Pervo, The Making of Paul, p. 83. Thanks to Eric C. Stewart for recommending this source.

99 Foucault, “What Is an Author?” pp. 210–11.

100 One example would be Fakhr al-Dīn ʿIrāqī. See Baldick, “The Authenticity of ʿIrāqī’s ʿUshshāq-nāma”; Shafīʿī-Kadkanī, Qalandariyya dar Tārīkh, pp. 320–3.

101 Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 344; Anṣārī Hirawī, Stations of the Sufi Path, pp. 26–7.

102 Reisner, “The Life of the Text and the Fate of Tradition,” p. 34; Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 337.

103 Tīr corresponds to the zodiac sign of Cancer in June and July; for the Qurʾanic reference to this wind see Q 69:6.

104 This is a hadith the complete version of which reads, “White hair is light. Whosoever plucks out white hairs has plucked out the light of Islam. When a man reaches forty years of age, God safeguards him against three afflictions: insanity, elephantiasis-leprosy, and malignant leprosy.” The hadith is recorded by Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Ḥibbān al-Tamīmī al-Bustī al-Shāfiʿī (d. 965). He comments that it has “no basis as being the speech of God’s messenger, may God’s blessings and peace be upon him” (Kitāb al-Majrūḥīn, p. 3:82).

105 This is a well-known Arabic saying whose origins I have not been able to locate.

106 Anṣārī Hirawī, Majmūʿa-yi Rasāʾil-i Fārsī, pp. 2:635–42, here, pp. 2:635–8.

107 Sulamī says that “it is among the traits of futuwwa that the servant witnesses his own shortcomings in every state and does not become satisfied with himself because of what is in that state” (al-Sulamī, Majmūʿat Āthār, p. 2:272).

108 Anṣārī Hirawī, Manāzil al-Sāʾirīn, p. 118, no. 35.

109 Al-Tilimsānī, Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 1:307. Al-Kāshānī comments that actions with slightly impure intentions are not “sins” in the literal sense, but sins for the “near ones,” in his Sharḥ Manāzil, p. 383.