ADDENDUM AU SUJET DE L’HOMME NICE: the Malamatiyya
The Malamatiyya is not a Movement as such but more a de-glamourized yet somehow stylish attempt to embrace an Earthly Mystery. It rooted in the early days before Muslim Sufism established. According to at least one expansive and knowledgeable expert, the Ninth Century A.D. (Islam’s Third Century) saw, in the Khorasan Region of Iran, the public recognition of advocates of God Realization or the spiritual experience that entails what Ms. Sara Sviri has called psycho-purity; Enlightenment.
The experience of emptying out life’s inputs and a meditative distillation of the soul was not what was new in the world but rather it was the public advocating of it that was new. Realization is not a chapter of extroverted worship such as those ritualized ceremonies or semi-socialized attendances by religious congregations that take place under order of priests. A sort of stress was set up by so publicly addressing this internal pursuit, a solo mystical path to a singular benefit. A curious kind of defensive posture was adopted by local adepts that amounted to a silent denial of their usefulness to others.
Simply, the Malamatiyya adepts were the God-realized few who put on no show of piety and spiritual or other glory nor of social acceptability. They did not achieve successful lives by any Earthly definition, including the common precepts of visible spirituality such as self-promotion by public faith-healings. Perhaps they were ex-convicts or otherwise were suffering from a low-ish reputation as society’s petty unfaithfuls. Or maybe they exhibited meagre resourcefulness in supporting their dependents or else got themselves committed to institutions. They might have been accused of scandalous activity or underemployment or simply of holding an under-respected occupation. Like the Fool in the Italian Tarot of some centuries later, they were valued socially at ‘nil’ or as we can also say ‘love’. We will find their more extrovert equivalents to be exalted by the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament – Moses the unbalanced murderer, David the blood-lusting adulterer and so on.The implication is that it is they – the people who have practically known and realized God – that we shall one day be measured against and not ‘the good and the great’ amongst society’s passionate believers and theorists no matter how pious their demeanour or glorious their social achievements.
This odd Islamic introversion of lofty achievement then became regarded as a deliberate attempt to cover up the specialness of a relationship with God that was suspected by the public as being at a much closer and more meaningful level than that experienced by the great mass of humanity. God became credited with the ‘occultation’ of those who had got to know Him by direct encounter, i.e. it was God who made sure they were never successful in worldly terms and were not glorified by others or pushed into the path of any band seeking after some Founding Father for a future religious sect. In short, this precious minority’s existence was accepted as the balancing force to the highly theoretical belief in God promoted by mainstream religions and these ‘malâmatîs’ with their contrariness had been specifically put in place by the Great God as the “Pillars of God” here on Earth.
These outwardly undistinguished persons were the actual living proof of the existence of God – they survived simply by trusting entirely in God to support them and showed zero skill at social politics nor even trying too hard to pursue any other natural talents they might possess either to their own or to anybody else’s material advantage – except perhaps when forced to by the pain of compassion – and yet this God-occulted pure nature (as seen by God alone and necessarily lacking any social agenda which would draw human attention to it) was hidden from the socially-normalized faux understanding of those around them (which being goal-based and validated by public results, not by private personal improvements, makes up the mindsets of all competitive societies both then and now).
They do not transgress the Islamic notion that “it is more in keeping with the ceremonious glorification of the Lord to ask of His steward than of Himself” as they do not beg anybody for anything, including God.
The problem with a burgeoning godliness inside a non-malâmatî is that it effortlessly accomplishes extraordinary things and the ‘nafs’ or lower selves notice this admiringly and seek to gain advantage by co-opting the use of it.
Whilst malâmatîs have no distinguishing signs to place them apart from other people (inwardly they consider all human actions to be hypocritical, including their own) and they also avoid making any inner claims to a special relationship with God, other than to deeply and involuntarily love God, and to know that God alone – and not other people like corporate bosses or state officials – provides them with everything, and yet they mysteriously avoid the appearance of breaching cause-and-effect which breach defines their very existence. (In other words, any threat of losing employment, land, money or even their life would cause them zero fear as God the Father will always carry them forward.) They know this reality to be true from their hearts and that would be noticeable to any astute observer making deductions upon a Malamatiyya’s life. But even trained social workers could label them as ‘downbeat’ or ‘oddball’ or ‘lazybone’ out of sheer habit of thought.
In this way, at one of the commercial crossroads of the old world, a private realization of the soul-spirit and God’s great protection became progressed into the public notion of ‘the Blameworthies’ upon their ‘Malâmatî Path’, those who know all too well how wrong their human animal actions and ideas are and will most readily confess to their personal lack of innocence and general worldly error even though most people would hold such public confession in reserve unless very hard pushed over a specific guilt that they could no longer deny.
In this way these soul specialists hope to overcome the danger of egoism transferring over into the developed spirit. For by ever expressing the Truth, rather than any of the politically intelligent gambits, these most aware adults, who are but rarely noticed and yet are everywhere, are often dismissed by others as ‘obviously guilty’ or ‘obvious losers’. How do they compare with the socially-elevated ‘saints’ beloved by all our high-profiling religions?
Well, it happens that the ‘nafs’ cannot be reduced by an ascetism alone. Some say that ascetic ways even strengthen them peculiarly. Both self-conceit and socialized outsider appraisals of their worthiness might do this. The Nîshâpûrî school known as the Malâmatiyya taught that the only way to subdue the nafs is to blame and humiliate them at every turn. Hence the Enlightened ones are those curiously fitted to prosecute themselves as blameworthy and not as sainted. Needing no obvious support to survive (God must be working through quite unaware ‘others’ to achieve this, as far as we can see, to avoid injuring the cause-and-effect rule that predominately defines this world) they are free to embrace blame purely for their own inner preservation and – even more importantly – to reject any praiseworthiness accorded by the customary religious or ethical standards. (Of course, if a not-yet-enlightened person should try to get to this aspect of enlightenment, say by drugs or drink or Adamic knowledge, they would probably be propelled ‘downwards’, maybe catastrophically.)
So, here is the total absence of self-promotional politicking, of all ambition or absolutely any desire for devotional worship or any other defensive manouevre publicly seeking after clemency for an injured human soul. In our reversed social topography whereby the lowest are held highest and the highest seen as lowest this amounts to a recipe for some major social failings – apparently by lowly individuals but actually by society itself.
This is not at all like performing for the dual benefit of two conflicting audients in their separate seats, one down in the earthly stalls and the other up in the heavenly circle. In the words of Hamdûn al-Qassâr, “It is to abandon in every situation the desire to smarten up in front of people, to renounce in all one’s states and actions the need to please people, and to be at all times beyond blame in fulfilling one’s duties to God.” Such dutiful lack must arise solely from the heart and may not concur with those precepts handed down by religious and other impositions.
The main argument I feel I must raise against Malamatiyya is that this naming of a special status is in itself a social glorification of sorts – although mystifying to most people – and provides an unsoughtafter ego-boost for the spiritually well-informed modern malâmatîs whose lives no doubt appear inexplicably mistaken to the blurred astigmatization of our normal perception of success. In the absence of the customary loin cloth of social compromise the naked shame of these knowing ones is so sufficiently risible as to ensure their relative safety until their final day comes to demobilize from this existence. As Sir Winston Churchill once forcefully remarked, on hearing of the massed foreign troops idly causing trouble and pettily exploiting the deprived womanhood of Southern England with uncensored silk-hose handouts and chocolate-bar compromises, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Of course this is not an accurate analogy as once we step upon any scaling ladder then we must become inextricably entangled in its thrall. Yet the Enlightened Ones, it seems, are strangely fated to get disentangled again upon once becoming hooked up to anything. In the words of Philo Judaeus, “Every good man is free.” It is the staying free and unhooked that is the problem for which the Malamatiyya has a supersolution.
(It is also interesting to note that these enlightened ones, who did not reach their enlightenment through particularly logical means, might seek to apply a convoluted logic in order to help them stem the tide of future corruption. I suspect that here is a proof that they are on their way back from their enlightenments and it is this rare yet achievable experience and its aftermath that may be the very source of the mythology of The Fall of Man when their blameworthy descent is seen from a social perpective. If all this Malmatiyya stuff is perplexing, then we can take heart that bewilderments and perplexity (hayrah) are considered by Moslems such as the respected sage Ibn ‘Arabi to be a recognizable point on the ‘upward path’ to our enlightenment. (Simply, if you are not content with the verity of your education in life so far, then abandon all that you may have previously taken on board in order to de-construct your acquired world and allow pure clarity to flood in to fill the void.)
On once being asked by a Dervish who he was, a negative sort of angelic being responded “I am the Deathly General of the heedless many and the very salvation of the Friends of God. If I did not punctuate their journeys, the enlightened few would return into the world as the disasterously successful and fatally proud.”
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012