The Guide Book of Theoretical Tasawwuf: Content and Influences of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawī’s Miftāḥ al-ghayb Cover Image

The Guide Book of Theoretical Tasawwuf: Content and Influences of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawī’s Miftāḥ al-ghayb
The Guide Book of Theoretical Tasawwuf: Content and Influences of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawī’s Miftāḥ al-ghayb

Contributor(s): Betül Gürer (Translator)
Subject(s): Theology and Religion, Islam studies, Middle-East Philosophy
Published by: Cumhuriyet Üniversitesi İlahyat Fakültesi
Keywords: Sadr al-Din al-Qunawī; Miftāḥ al-ghayb; Theoretical tasawwuf; Metaphysic; Molla Fanārī;

Summary/Abstract: The history of sufism entered a new process called “period of muhaqqiqs /period of metaphysical sufism/ tasawwuf” with Ibn al-Arabī one of the most important intellectuals of sufi/tasawwuf thought. Ibn al-Arabī is the leading muhaqqiqs formulating the understanding of this period which is peculiar to itself with his books. However, the person who regulated the knowledge inherited from him and produced a new doctrine from it is Sadr al-Din al-Qunawī. His book in which he exhibited this contribution is Miftāḥ al-ghayb acceptedas an essential book by muhaqqiqs after Qunawī and assigned to principles and orders of theoretical tasawwuf thought. Because of its complicated and important content, many commentaries were written on Miftāḥ al-ghayb. Thus, theoretical tasawwuf thought by the commentators of Qunawī have taken Akbarian-Qunawian form and gained a place in Turkish-Islamic thought. In this article, characteristics of metaphysical term in history of sufism will be mentioned shortly, the content and influences of Miftāḥ al-ghayb will be stated and the Akbarian-Qunawian movement consisting from commentators of Miftāḥ al-ghayb, which have shaped the theoretical Tasawwuf thought will be introduced in general.SUMMARY: Sufism (tasawwuf), which is one of the fundamental branches of the Islamic thought like kalam and philosophy, has gone, from the beginning to the present day, through some different periods which have been classified by historians of sufism according to their characteristics. According to this classification, having begun as a movement of ascetism (zuhd), dominated by a practical and individual leaning, sufism acquired the status of an independent science about two centuries later and from the 13th century onwards, it evolved into a system with a metaphysical and theoretical characteristic where issues of philosophy and kalam began to be discussed and written about at length. This process, which is also called “period of muhaqqiqs (verifiers)”, assumed, in addition to its aforesaid practical aspect, a theoretical dimension after Ghazālī especially with Ibn al-Arabī which aimed to arrive at the haqīqa (truth). However, it was Sadr al-Dīn al-Qunawī, who included the theoretical sufi thought, or "al-‘ilm al-ilāhī (the divine science)" in the terminology of muhaqqiqs, which had reached its culmination with Ibn al-Arabī, in the hierarchy of formal sciences.Qunawī's contribution to both theoretical sufi thought and the school of Ibn al-Arabī (Akbariyya) took place in several different ways. One of them was that he contributed to an understanding of Akbarian ideas by putting in order his thoughts, which were in a scattered manner in the works of Ibn al-Arabī. Another was that he shaped the metaphysical thought to a great extent through works he wrote. At the top of these works of Qunawī is his work entitled Miftāḥ al-ghayb, which could be regarded as the handbook of the new era in the history of sufism which emerged with Ibn al-Arabī.With its content, its method and its suggestion of new ideas which had not been voiced until then, Miftāḥ al-ghayb had a shaping influence on the history of sufism and history of Islamic thought. Miftāḥ al-ghayb, which was one of the essential texts of the new era called the period of muhaqqiqs, and an important aspect of it which would help it associate with a specific period in the history of thought was that not only did it provide information about this theoretical field but it also mentioned methods for evaluation of this kind of information as well as sources of this information and principles unique to this field. In other words, this book is in a way a method book for the field of doctrinarian sufism to which it belongs. In addition to this quality of it which arose from its content, there are two more features that render Miftāḥ al-ghayb important for the history of sufism. The first of them is this: Qunawī determined the subject matter, principles and issues of metaphysics, which he called al-‘ilm al-ilāhī, in this book. With this book by Qunawī, the discipline of sufism gained a place in the hierarchy of formal sciences. The second feature of Miftāḥ al-ghayb is this: The book has provided a significant contribution to rendering sufism a discipline which possesses the quality of self-criticism because Qunawī identified some criteria in this book by which a sufi or mystic could test his knowledge. These were some rules that helped true knowledge from void knowledge. In other words, these principles, which provided awareness about the value of the knowledge obtained as a result of the method of contemplation (mushahada), revealed the importance of exploratory knowledge and at the same time proved that sufism was a system that had its own method for obtaining information.This contribution, which Qunawī made through Miftāḥ al-ghayb,i.e. its ensuring an independent place for sufism in the classification of collected (mudawwan) sciences, its proving the validity of the observation method, which was the sufis’ mushahada method for collecting information, and its revealing the merit of exploratory knowledge, is among the first in the history of sufism.By virtue of its aforementioned characteristics, Miftāḥ al-ghayb attracted considerable attention among the Ottoman intellectuals and numerous annotations were written with regard to it. The only one among Qunawī's books about which various annotations were written is Miftâḥ al-ghayb. The reason for this is that the content of Miftāḥ al-ghayb was so intensive and concise as to need annotations and that it contains the essence of the views expressed in the other works of Qunawī. Therefore, an analysis of the content of Miftāḥ al-ghayb and an investigation of the literature written on this book is of great significance in terms of revealing the essential dynamics of the Ottoman tradition of science. Miftāḥ al-ghayb has six annotations, the annotators of six of which are known whereas the annotators of two of them are not known. The writers of the six annotations are: Molla Fanārī, Qutb al-Dīn-zāda Izniqī, Ahmad Ilāhī, Abd Allāh Qirimī, Uthmān Fadlī Atpazārī, and Abd al-Rahmān Rahmī Bursawī. Thanks to these annotations, Akbarian ideas entered into Ottoman intellectual life and formed its basis. The Turkish thought in general and the Ottoman thought in particular evolved on the basis of these ideas and acquired its unique identity.The intellectual school which is composed of the aforementioned annotators of Miftāḥ al-ghayb and followers of Ibn Arabī is called the Akbarian school. In this school, a group which consists of annotators of Miftāḥ al-ghayb and which we can call “followers of Qunawī” differs from the other members of the school in terms of method and style because a striking aspect of annotations of Miftāḥ al-ghayb is that the manners by which the annotators approached the issues and the contents of the works were formed on the basis of Qunawī’s system. The annotators focused in their books on the topics which Qunawī had dealt with and they followed Qunawī's method in their approach to the issues. Therefore, followers of Qunawī in the school differed partially from the followers of Ibn al-Arabī, and this school, composed of followers of Qunawī, became a school that had a method of its own. The greatest contribution in the shaping of this school undoubtedly came from Molla Fanārī because he was the first annotator of Miftāḥ al-ghayb and this enabled him to influence and shape the other annotations written after him. Moreover, Molla Fanārī's use of principles of logic in the way he dealt with topics and in his explanations and his clarification of the issues by taking into consideration of the methods of philosophers played a significant part in the shaping of Qunawī’s streak (school). In short, it can be said that the Qunawī streak in the Akbarian school is a system that was shaped by the use of Qunawī's methods and developed through Molla Fanārī's approach. However, it should in no way be thought that this movement is outside of the Akbarian school by virtue of its approach and area of interest; on the contrary, it should be noted that Qunawī streak or movement appeared within the Akbarian school and that it had qualities that were unique to it.

  • Issue Year: 21/2017
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 883-912
  • Page Count: 30
  • Language: English