CLARIFYING COMPANIONSHIP: AL-SULAMĪ’S (D. 412/1021) KITĀB ĀDĀB AL-ṢUḤBA
Heck, Paul L
This dissertation examines the understanding of companionship in the writings of the Ṣūfī master Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 412/1021), particularly his treatise Kitāb ādāb al-ṣuḥba wa ḥusn al-ʿishra (The Ways of Companionship and Good Fellowship). This collection of wise maxims articulates how believers acquire knowledge of God through their bonds with their friends: the stable, mutual, voluntary relationship of companionship serves as a privileged arena for believers to experience God’s providence and to cultivate virtues that are pleasing to God. The present study reexamines some of the key concepts in al-Sulamī’s spiritual pedagogy, including adab (practice/comportment), akhlāq (virtues/morals) and ṣuḥba (companionship). Al-Sulamī’s emphasis on the integration of visible behavior and inner orientation distinguishes this treatise. He provides specific habits of the mind which find expression in the forgiveness, sincerity, and generosity which characterize a Ṣūfī’s attitude toward social relations, seeking a practice that unites the ẓāhir (exterior) and bāṭin (interior) throughout.I argue that this treatise provides a corrective to scholarly assumptions about the period for two distinct but related reasons. First, it treats believers at an earlier stage of spiritual progress; it is a Ṣūfī treatise written for ordinary believers, not a description of advanced stages of spiritual growth. Al-Sulamī accepts that companionship is a natural bond which occurs in all human societies, so he uses this compilation of teachings to draw believers who already experience that bond toward an expression of companionship suffused with the wisdom of the developing Ṣūfī tradition. In this attempt to spread and promote aspects of the Ṣūfī tradition in these interpersonal relationships, I argue that al-Sulamī intends to advance the subtle “ṣūfization” of his larger society. Second, Kitāb ādāb al-ṣuḥba treats companionship in a broader sense than the relationship between master and disciple. Modern scholars frequently focus their attention on this solitary bond; al-Sulamī’s treatise, without diminishing the importance of shaykhs, highlights the importance of “ordinary” friendships in a believer’s spiritual growth. Al-Sulamī maintains a distinction between ṣuḥba and ʿishra (fellowship), and applies the wisdom of the Ṣūfī tradition to each. He offers guidance for one’s intimate friendships as well as for one’s casual associations on the street and in the market, and both become venues to encounter God and advance in the virtues.This dissertation utilizes contemporary philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre as a resource to explore under-noticed elements of al-Sulamī’s spiritual pedagogy. In particular, this study draws upon resonances between MacIntyre’s notions of practice, tradition, and virtue and places these concepts into dialogue with al-Sulamī. I argue that MacIntyre’s notion of practice adequately approximates what al-Sulamī means by adab and that MacIntyre’s notion of tradition captures important elements of al-Sulamī’s understanding of taṣawwuf.The dissertation contains an appendix with an annotated English translation of Kitāb ādāb al-suḥba, the first scholarly translation of this treatise into a European language.
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