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Ithaf al-Dhaki by al-Kurani: A Critical Edition

Title: Ithaf al-Dhaki: Tafsir Wahdatul Wujud bagi Muslim Nusantara.
Author: Oman Fathurahman
Publishers: Mizan and EFEO Jakarta, in cooperation with Yayasan Rumah Kitab and Institut Studi Islam Fahmina (ISIF).
Year of Publication: August 2012.

After waiting for almost four years, a critical edition of the Itḥāf al-Dhakī, a Sufi treatise written by Ibrahim al-Kurani, has been published in last August. This book includes the Arabic text of the Itḥāf and its translation in Bahasa. I have written an introduction of the text and discussed its significance in the context of Indonesian Islam, Aceh in particular.

Following is the 'original' version of a foreword by Prof. Anthony H. Johns (Australian National University), which is not included in the book.

The Itḥāf al-dhakī bi sharḥ al-Tuḥfah al-mursalah ilá al-Nabī, presented in this pioneering work of Dr. Oman Fathurahman has been part of my academic and even personal life for many years, and I am deeply indebted to it, and to its author, al-Kūrānī, for all I have learnt from it of the Islamic disciplines, and the spirituality and personality of its author.

The work that it sets out to explicate, al-Tuhfah al-mursalah, by Faḍl Allāh al-Hindī al-Burhānfūrī (d. 1620), and its exposition of seven grades of being was my introduction to tasawwuf in the Malay world. In fact, my academic career began in August 1954 with a paper on him, his work and its place in the Sufi tradition in 17th century Aceh at the 23th International Congress of Orientalists, held at Cambridge University.

It happened that the Chair of the session was H.A.R. Gibb. He asked, ‘How did it get there?’ This was a time when Southeast Asia was remote from the concerns of mainstream Islamicists. There was little sense among them, that Indonesia was more than a remote ‘periphery’ of the Muslim world, a region in which there happened to be some Muslims. There was hardly any realisation that it was an integral part of that world, linked to the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East by the trading system of the Indian Ocean and participating in its learning and in the pilgrimage season, converging on the holy city of Mecca. Well might Gibb ask!

I hardly realised it myself at that time, and only had a superficial understanding of the world I was setting out to explore. As a recently graduated Ph.D., although I knew the lexical meanings of the technical vocabulary of the Tuḥfah, and the organisational principal of the seven grades of being that it presented – Aḥadīyah, Waḥdah, Wāḥidīyah, ‘ālam al-arwāḥ, ‘ālam al-mithāl, ‘ālam al-ajsām and ‘ālam al-insān al-kāmil –, I had no idea of their inner meaning, or the dynamics of the spiritual universe they subsumed. They were little more than a neat, self-contained system which summated the concept of waḥdat al-wujūd, to which some Muslims subscribed, and which a number of European scholars of Indonesia were content to describe as pantheistic and ‘heretical’.

Then I had not realised that the Tuḥfah was essentially a dot-point summation of elements expression of an interior realisation of the most profound and radical of all utterances, lā ilāha illā’llāh: an expression of a sense of awe at the mystery of existence, and an attempt to express the relationship of the divine to the human, and the manifestation of the divine in the human, the wonder implicit in the juxtaposition of al-ḥaqq and al-khalq, and the love that subsisted between them. With the arrogance of youth, I had only a flat monochromatic response to the ḥadīth qudsī, ‘kuntu kanzan makhfīyan’, and all that it contained.

The Tuḥfah, written in Burhanpur in 1590, yet part of mainstream religious teaching in Aceh and beyond by 1615 was one example of the participation of the Jāwī in the highest levels of theosophy, not as individuals on an imagined periphery, but members of a wide community. Its summation of the apprehension of the Unity of being in seven grades became widely known, and part of spiritual life in the region, both in Arabic and in local languages, above all, Malay and Javanese. It was a genuine part of spiritual life of the region, though its depths require guided exploration.

The Itḥāf al-dhakī, by the great scholar Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī, offers a magisterial exploration of this spiritual and theological wealth. Until as recently as 1971, the only readily available MS of it was one included by P. Voorhoeve in his listing of the Arabic MSS at Institutions in the Netherlands. It is a copy of a MS from Tipu Sultan made for Snouck Hurgronje, held in the Leiden University Library.

I took a photocopy of it to Cairo in 1965 on my first study leave, planning to learn more Arabic and to explore its significance, and the contribution it might make to an understanding of the Tuḥfah. A complex, elaborately structured work, it ranges across a number of disciplines. It is wonderful evidence in an Arabic source, not only of the presence of Jāwī students in Medina, but of their interactions with Medinan and Meccan scholars, their reporting of issues in their own country, and thus the role they played in the pastoral, teaching and writing career of one of the greatest Sufi scholars of the 11/17 centuries in Medina.

It is striking that Jāwī students in Medina had personal access to him, and that he wrote this book in response to their queries about the way the Tuḥfah should be understood. Possibly these queries were first raised with him by the great ‘Abd al-Ra’ūf al-Sinkīlī, a student of Aḥmad al-Qushāshī and quite likely an associate of Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī until he returned to Aceh in 1661, the year in which al-Qushāshī died, and al-Kūrānī became khalīfah of the Shaṭārīyah order in his place.

This Leiden MS presents difficulties, caused in part by numerous errors of many kinds that discouraged closer study. And it appeared to be unique. Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī himself attracted little interest. Many traditional western scholars of the Sufi tradition on hearing his name and his dates tended to remark disparagingly, ‘rather late, don’t you think’. In fact, apart from the Indonesian connection, he was unknown in the West.

By chance, thanks to the late Muḥammad Muṣṭafa Ḥilmī, a specialist on Ibn al-Farīḍ, I met Dr. Nagah Mahmud al-Ghoneimy, at that time a student at the Azhar, writing a Ph.D. thesis on al-Jīlī. Unusually, for an Egyptian, he was fascinated by the Indonesian connection – many Egyptians at that time having a somewhat disdainful attitude to the level of Islamic faith and practice in Indonesia, and examined the work enthusiastically. He discovered in the Azhar library another manuscript, far superior to that of the Leiden library, and in the Dār al-Kutub, two more.

With these four MSS there seemed to be an adequate foundation to establish the text, and prepare an English translation, sharing the hospitality of the Institut Dominicain d’Etudes Orientales in Cairo. After a few years however, the project came to a halt, in part because I had become entranced with Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s analysis of Sūrah Yūsuf in his great tafsīr, Mafātih al-Ghayb. I had discovered a new love, the text of the Qur’an, but it was a discovery to which al-Kūrānī’s work had led me, and which I should have made many years before.

The Itḥāf is a marvellous work. I cannot describe how much I learnt from it, the works associated with it, and the information given about Ibrahim as a scholar and dedicated teacher in the biographical dictionaries that we had cause to study. In expounding the worlds of meaning subsumed and hidden within the Tuḥfah, the Itḥāf leads the reader through the various Islamic disciplines and their practitioners as he uncovers their unveiling of levels of meaning in the Qur’an and hadith, revealing the richness of taṣawwuf. He shows himself a master of grammar and kalām, and a superb dialectician. One would not lightly engage him in controversy despite his disarming remark that it is better to reconcile opposing views, than to embrace one of them or the other.

But more important is the spirit of piety and felt devotion that breathes through the work. In Affifi’s ground-breaking book on Ibn ‘Arabī one reads of the divine names (al-asmā’ al-ḥusná) as lines of force, as elements in a system – no more. But when al-Kūrānī uses these names in his khuṭbah to the Itḥāf, they become part of the readers’ experience. He uses them and their acoustic resonances like the pedal notes of a might organ to sound through the whole work, carrying their meanings.

He confounds the antinomians who claim that ‘enlightenment’ (kashf) releases one from legal obligation with an invincible argument: The prophet received ultimate enlightenment at the time of the Mi‘rāj, when he was taken up to the divine presence. This, proceeded by the Isrá’, was shortly before the hijrah. Legal obligation however – the Ritual Prayer, the Fast and the Pilgrimage – were not imposed until after the hijrah, in Medina, after the Mi‘rāj. This principle is emphasized in the very structure of the work.

After justifying the insights granted to the mystics, and the favours given to them, he gives examples of their sayings. And of these the climax and conclusion is the five ‘words’ of ‘Ali in answer to the questions of his servant Kumayl, that have a spiritual concentration and intensity that makes stand the hairs on the nape of the neck. And then he turns to the importance of observing of legal obligation. And towards the end of this section quotes al-Dawānī as saying words to the effect that if anyone claims to have knowledge of divine mysteries and received divine favours, but not honour the Law, ‘We would cuff the back of his head and slap his face for this claim’.

It is a privilege to write a foreword to this book. It is a realisation of a dream I had many years ago, but which inspired me to follow other paths, although never completely absent from my mind.

Dr. Oman has discovered more and better MSS of the Ithaf than the Cairo three uncovered by Dr. al-Ghoneimy in Cairo in 1971. He has demonstrated that it was more widely known than I had dreamed. The late Dr. Osma Yahia had suggested to me that Turkey might be a good place to look for more manuscripts of the work. Dr. Oman has done so, and discovered riches. He demonstrates the importance of the work, shows how widely it was known, and given it the respect that it deserves.

It was a book written in Medina for the Jāwī. It is more than fitting that an Indonesian descendant of those Jāwī should publish this great apologia for the Unity of Being, this unfolding of the wonders implicit in the sublimest of utterances, and make it accessible to a wider world.

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2 Kommentare:

Anonymous said...

salam pak oman, bagaimana jika mau memiliki buku ini? saya di Malaysia...pasti ramai yg ingin memiliki buku ini disini...

Oman Fathurahman said...

Salam. Terima kasih banyak apresiasinya. Barangkali untuk di Malaysia bisa langsung kontak pemesanan ke Penerbit Mizan di sini: . Sekali lagi, saya ucapkan terima kasih banyak. Salam.