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Islamic Mysticism in Modern Arabic Poetry and Drama

  • Khalil I. Semaan (a1)


It is customary to view the mystic and his experience from at least three angles: the theological, the philosophical, and the psychological. To be sure, the mystical experience represents an extraordinary phenomenon of the highest psychological complexity. Mysticism, nowadays, in this age of Aquarius, many would dismiss as a sick or superstitious accident; on the other hand, those who are acquainted with the phenomenon of religion and the history of its development would view it as a true and viable human state, as man's religious consciousness.



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1 My good friend, Johns, A. H., Head of Indonesian Languages and Literatures, The National Australian University, Canberra, Australia, observes that ‘some Sūfīs have a very vigorous doctrine of predestination; the central tradition of Sūfīsm insists on a combination of immanence and transcendence — the man who does this is Kāmil Mukammal; Sūfīs distinguish between states that are earned (kasb is an important Orthodox doctrine too) and states that are given; the central Sūfī tradition lays stress on the requirements of the law, once a mukallaf always a mukallaf; “mystery of redemption” in a Christian sense or mystery of election?’ My thanks to Professor Johns.

2 La Passion…d' alHallaj, martyr mystique de l'lslam (Paris, 1922).

3 Junayd of Baghdad, died A.D. 909, tried to harmonize mysticism with orthodoxy.

4 A branch of the Ismaili sect who, during the tenth century, rose against Baghdad, successfully attacked and sacked Mecca, and carried away the sacred Black Stone.

5 Arnold, Thomas and Guillaume, Alfred, eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford, 1931), pp. 216218.

6 Edward, DomButler, Cuthbert in the Preface to Western Mysticism, 3rd ed., with Afterthought and new Preface by David Knowles (London, 1967).

7 al-Bayātī, Abd al-Wahhāb, Sifr al-Faqr wa-Thawrah (Beirut, 1965). My friend and colleague, Gayle Whittier, read the translation of the poetry and offered a number of useful suggestions.

8 Daoud, H. H., Tārīkh al-Adab al-Hadīth (Cairo, 1967), p. 153.

9 The following is from my translation of al-Sabūr's, S. 'AbdMurder in Baghdad (Ma'sāt al-Hallāj), published as volume one of Arabic Translation Series of The Journal of Arabic Literature (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972).

10 I am carrying over into English the Arabic personification of the sun as feminine. The English poetic tradition of masculine personification of the sun is a Latinized one the original feminine gender in Old English having been forgotten.

11 Semaan, Khalil I. H., ‘T. S. Eliot's Influence on Arabic Poetry and Theater,’ Comparative Literature Studies (Urbana, Ill.), 6 (1969), 847865.

Islamic Mysticism in Modern Arabic Poetry and Drama

  • Khalil I. Semaan (a1)


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