Syrian influence on early Sufi Muslim spiritual practice?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

So how come some elements of early Sufi Muslim spiritual practice seem quite non-Quranic and seem quite like Syriac Christian practice? (eg celibacy, renunciations, etc). I'm writing a number of papers on this area, including one right now on the idea of spiritual struggle (in Arabic- jihad, and in Syriac several words TBA). The Muslim idea of jihad as spiritual war seems derived from the earlier Syrian monastic tradition.


Oren said...

I am very interested in your findings. I have reason to believe that the hebrew cognate of jihad is da'g.

Justin said...

Bless Father,

The idea that jihad was derived from the earlier Syrian monastic tradition is a fascinating topic. I hope to read more of your work in the future.

The celibacy, renunciations etc you mention are characteristics found in many and unrelated monastic-like traditions around the world. It is interesting how mankind's most pervasive religions- regardless of culture- find it necessary to build a discipline of rising above the passions. That being the case of I'm curious, are there more specific practices or textual sources that suggest a connection between Syriac monasticism and islam/sufism? Are you also drawing from Christopher Luxemburg's work? That would be an interesting connection indeed.

Oren said...

another cognate in both hebrew and syriac is dHq: daleth-heth-quph

@Oren, I'm interested to see what evidence you have- sounds coool. I'll swap you sources :-)

@Justin, God bless you. You're right about the commonalities. I originally found Christoph's work interesting, but the more I learn the less I'm impressed. The background/early stuff is good, but his application on specific words is not. I think the critiques have pretty much dismembered his work. eg see (Any comments??) I think Mingana's work is better.

Actually, I'm not all that impressed with Mingana either. He has some useful bits and pieces, but his main arguments are weak and largely discreditted IMHO eg:

Justin said...

Thank you for these links! This will be interesting reading. As usual, I am a step behind.

Justin, a good place to start reading is Theodoret of Cyrrhus: "A History of the monks of Syria" available in English and also in Syriac. So much of it sounds like early Sufism, especially Rabi'a (or vice versa actually).

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