For full article read here. [forum.culteducation.com
Speculations On How What Was Originally Advice For Humility Became a Rationalization for Guru Abuse
On his website Dr Shepherd has this article from which a few quotations are taken in my attempt to offer a possible way in which malamatia, a practice of privacy, was in some cases, taken to admirable extremes, but later reframed as crazy wisdom and a handy excuse for mere abusive or self indulgent behavior.
Those who cling to the crazy wisdom alibi usually insist that historical analysis cannot capture the real essence of spiritualty. All I can say is that a truly worthy leader and project need not fear the efforts of the historian or journalistic fact checking.
ENTRY no. 14 Kevin R D Shepherd, Ph.D
EARLY SUFISM IN IRAN AND CENTRAL ASIA
An objective of subsequent malamatis at Nishapur was to conceal saintly accomplishments, even if they were in this manner misconstrued as being ordinary men.
Their code of self-criticism was inverted and abused in later centuries by nominal malamatis who merely liked to draw attention to themselves by bizarre actions or unconventional behaviour.
The original ideal was discernibly very different, and evidently required a high degree of self-control and a determination to resist the limelight and attendant distractions. The aim was to reduce egotism and pride in imagined spiritual advancement.
Malamatism was interpreted in a variety of ways.
The subject of malamatism becomes complicated when it is understood that early exemplars at Nishapur gave different twists of meaning to the "path of blame."
There were both "extreme" and "moderate" malamatis, and at least among the latter, there were differences of emphasis between exponents. Hamdun al-Qassar (d.884) represented the "extreme" approach, his circle rigorously emphasising the programme of malamat al-nafs ("incurring blame on oneself"). The "moderate" party were inspired by Abu Hafs al-Haddad (d.c. 874-9) and his disciple Abu Uthman al-Hiri (d. 910).
Qassar was not only averse to the patched robe of the ascetic, but also to the subject of spiritual practices, which he is said to have criticised and denounced, his reason being that such exercises could create deceit. Whereas Haddad encouraged his pupils to undertake such exercises, although in a malamati context that apparently differed from the standard ascetic routines. His successor Abu Uthman al-Hiri taught a "middle path" between the two apparentlapparently contradictory forms of malamati teaching. "Both ways are correct; each, however, in its right time." (12)
According to Hiri, the disciple was initially to be trained in "the path of practices," as a result of which an attachment ensues, making the disciple dependent upon the favoured practices. The trainee had then to be shown the shortcomings of his pursuit, until he becomes aware that his spiritual practices have left him far from completion. (13)
Shepherd's article continues:
any of the external trappings of conventional Islamic asceticism. He did not dress as a zahid, did not give the popular sermons that attracted credulous crowds, and nor did he undertake the constant pilgrimages which filled the agenda of many professional ascetics. Yet the details are so sparse that different interpretations are possible. Many, or even most, of the men described as malamatis in ninth century Nishapur evidently lived in the artisan and mercantile milieu of the Nishapur bazaar. I
t is possible to view Haddad as a blacksmith who became a malamati, but there is no certainty that he severed his link with the bazaar, especially if his own disciples were artisans and merchants in many instances. His name al-Haddad means "ironsmith."
There was an extension to this factor. Early malamatis seem to have identified with the attitude of altruistic self-sacrifice that marked the tradition of futuwwa - the name given to the system of crafts and professions in Khurasan, a system which promoted strict ethical standards and awarded precedence to fellow members of the fraternity rather than to oneself. There is here the complexity that the social futuwwa
was given a mystical complexion by malamatis, a feature which persisted in later Sufism. The malamatis are thought to have adopted the term futuwwa (chivalry, literally "youth") as a code-name for a mystical stage, possibly meaning a novitiate prior to reaching the stage of "manhood" (rujuliyya
(Corboy note: 1 I suggest an analogy from baking. Under my mother's tutelage, I learned to knead dough and use commercial yeast as the rising agent. Got pretty good at it. Most of my pals didnt do home baking and thought my ability to do this was amazing. Nice for my ego and we all had a good time.
But when, years later, I met another baker who had had professional training, and knew techniques my mother had not heard of. Teacher #2 showed me how to use slow rise techniques, the use of levain and sourdough starters, the taste of these new recipes revealed to me that I had very much more to learn.
So, thats the analogy. Teach someone to master the basics. Then, show them what the results are from taking it to another level of practice--whether it is spirituality, or at the baker's worktable)
(note 2 from Corboy--imagine these futuwan
fraternities as being roughly analogous to labor unions. Can tell you that from having watched my uncle, a life long union carpenter, being part of a work crew would have been a stabilizing influence for boys and young men, giving an outlet for energy, older men to advise and critique one's work. If you dont show up on time to join your work crew on a project because you've overslept or partied too hard the night before, that work crew will call you out on it.
For another source on these futwan
societies in Anatolia, one can read Ibn Battuta's descriptions of the hospitality he received and how impressed he was when he met these societies in the 14th century--hundreds of years after the sources cited by Dr Shepherd--Corboy--A good overview is The Adventures of Ibn Battuta
**Ibn Battutua is worth reading by anyone who cares about Tassawuf. Ibn Battuta was a Sufi, and his Rihla (Travels) contain many descriptions of Sufi societies and teachers, for Battuta made a point of seeking out and speaking with as many Sheikhs and Pirs as he could--all the way from Egypt to Turkey, to Central Asia, Pakistan, Iraq and India.
Dr Shepherd's thesis may be supported by an independent source--a source that is not his bibliography.
David Edwards interviewed Pashtun refugees in Pakistan in the 1980s and published a book, Heroes of the Age: Moral Faultlines on the Afghan Frontier
(University of California Press)
In a chapter tentitled The Lives of an Afghan Saint
"Despite the fact that there is no shame attached to following a pir (Sufi leader), it is the practice in some areas for disciples to keep secret their involvement with pirs. The reason for keeping this attachment a secret is difficult to ascertain, but it seems at least in part to keep the moral worlds of (Pashtun/Pakhtunwallah)honor and Islam separate and thereby avoid the kinds of contradictions that ensue when the two overlap.
"An alternative explanation is offered by an informant from Paktia Province (Afghanistan) who explained the practice as follows:
"Most disciples do not want to reveal that they are followers of a pir
. They think that [revealing this fact] would be a way of projecting yourself as a good person, which is [an attitude] that Allah wouldnt like. Basically, one becomes a disciple to seek guidance on the right path to Allah. One doesn;t do it for any other reason, and it should be kept secret as much as possible.
In the case of our family, it happened so many times that one of our family members became a disciple without our even knowing about it. Because of this attitudeon the part of the disciples, it is difficult to know how many have accepted the tariqat