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« Islamic science | Main | A few words on 'Islamists' and Muslim ethics »

September 09, 2003


Amman Mohammed

I would like to commend to all english speaking muslims and to interested english speakers Mr. Chitticks remarkable book "Faith and Practice in Islam." The book is surely one of Allah's Blessings to english speakers. It is an illumianting and and powerful work. Allahu Akbar.

munir ahmad

Dear Chittic

I read some books available here in Pakistan written by you. May the All-Pervasive bless you with more understaning of His all pervasiveness.Being a studenti have some questins.
What is your view about the finality of prophethood?
Can we say that now all the religions can lead a man to Good's merci?
Where lies the salvatioo now?
A man believing in any religion( rrevealed)can bring His love , merci of God or one religion is the only way?

I will be thankful to you.

A student

munir ahmad
House No # 76/ Y Fareed Town Sahiwal


Munir Ahmed,

I am afraid to say that William Chittick does not write for this blog. The quote was from a paper by him that I found on the web, and thought the 5 readers of this site might be interested in.


abu zuhri shin

:Abu Zuhri Shin- personal essay

The Sage in Chinese Classics

In Chinese Tradition, Confucius , Mencius and Lao Tze are honored as
Sages / Sheng Ren. The Final Messenger of Islam- Muhammad sallaLlahu
alaihi wa salam is conferred the title- Ching Sheng – the Glorious/Greatest/Most Prominent Sage by Chinese muslim scholars. There is a ancient mosque in Guang Zhou, China called Huai Sheng Si ( Mosque in Remembrance of the Sage/Rasul).

Mencius says- the sage is a teacher of a hundred generations but for
muslims- the Sage/Rasul is a teacher/examplar for a thousand
generations (to the last age/humanity ).

The Chinese people are close to fitra and sunna of Ancient Sages,
which mean they already know and followed some Heavenly inspired way
of worship, respect the ruler, elders, rites, moral rights and
character, virtues and refine culture. They lost it and fragmented
into Tao/Buddhist/Confucian beliefs which only had some remnants of
truth. The Last Messenger come to restore, revive and complete the
Whole Teaching/ Wisdom Way.

Description of The Sage / Sheng Ren
From Chung Yung (Doctrine of the Mean)

It is only he , possessed of all SAGELY qualities
that can exist under heaven,
who can show himself quick in apprehension ,
clear in discerning , of far reaching intelligence ,
and all embracing KNOWLEDGE(Wahyu/hikmah) ,
fitted to exercise RULE(Shariat) ,
magnanimous , generous
, benign and mild ( harisun /raufur rahim ),
fitted to EXERCISE forbearance ( hilm /sabr),
impulsive , energetic , firm , and enduring,
fitted to maintain a FIRM HOLD ( urwatul wusqa ),
self adjusted , grave ,
never serving from the MEAN / MIDDLE ( Istiqama )
and correct, fitted to COMMAND ( Amar ) reverence ;
accomplished , distinctive, and searching ,
fitted to exercise DISCRIMINATION ( furqan ).
All embracing is he and vast ( innaka ala Khuluqi azim ),
deep and active as a fountain ( rahmata lil-alamin ),
sending forth in their due season his virtues
( rahma /syafaa ). –p112.

He is seen , and people revere him ;
He speaks , and all people believe him ;
He acts and the people are pleased with him
( atiu ` Llah wa atiur Rasul ) ;
..therefore his fame overspreads the middle kingdom
( ummatan wasatan ) and extended to all foreign races.
Where ships and carriages reach;
Wherever the strength of man penetrates;
Wherever the heaven overshadow and
The earth sustains ; Wherever the sun and moon shine
( was syamsi wa qamar ) ; where the frost
and dews falls – all who have blood and breath
unfeignly honor and love him. Hence it is said
– ` He is equal of Heaven `/mercy of the worlds. –p113.

Who can know him ,but he who is indeed quick in apprehension,
clear in discerment, of far reaching intellect and all embracing
knowledge, possessing heavenly virtue ( iman/ihsan).

The superior man accords / follow with the course of the Mean
( Middle Path ) . Though he may be all unknown , unregarded by the
world , he feels no regret ; It is only the SAGE
who is able for this ! p-55

The Way which the superior man pursues ,
reache s wide and far ,and yet is secret / concealed.

(All quotations above from The Chinese Classics by James Legge’s translation)

Hui Jiao ( The Way of Return )

Why some Chinese scholars call Islam as HUI JIAO ? It means the Path
returning to God, to our true nature, primordial being. Hui resemble
the character of double mim – square circles like Kaaba, the ancient
house of worship founded by Prophet Ibrahim alaihi salam. At that
time , apart from Islam , the Divine teaching were called Din al-
hanif , din al-fitrah or din al-haqq. All these meaning denotes
restoring man to his original, noble, truthful being as the slave
and representative of God in the earth. He undertook the trust –
message from God which all other creation afraid to bear.

The word SAGE in Chinese consist of 3 basic characters :
First-ERH on top left ( ear/hear)
Second-KO on top right ( mouth/teach/speak)
Third- WANG at bottom ( king/divine)

I will first explain the bottom word- WANG/king. Why the sage must
have a kingly character ?

Man as Khalifah / King /Ruler

A king can means a ruler , leader, scholar, warrior, statesman with
authority ( derived by adhering to Heaven Will/Mandate-trust). The
top line in wang denotes Tian/ Heaven / God. The second line-
ren/man and the third line- Tu/earth.

So a king is one who rule with justice and adhere to the truth/right
way in living on earth with his subjects. He received the
blessings/connection from Heaven above. This indicated in the
vertical line connecting the 3 horizontal line. Allah says in the
Quran : Inni jailun fil-ardhi khalifa and fahkum bainan-nas bi-adli.
I will create a man/leader/rasul who will represent Me ( My
Decree/Teaching). Judge between men in justice/mercy. What a
coincidence ? There are proofs that God also choose His Rasul/Nabi
who are king/rulers like Sulaiman and Yusuf , but the station/name
as Rasul / Nabi is higher than king/sultan/emperor because Allah
give them REVELATION/ WAHYU. They are commanded to live in
harmony/humility not arrogantly. While the earthly kings had only
temporal power/wealth and followers.

In Chinese tradition , there are 3 kings who achieved the sagely
quality by Divine Will- Yao, Shun and Zhao. Chuang Tzu says the
perfect man are like sage when in stillness /contemplation /ibadah
and like a king when in movement/ exercise of power/action.

Revelation and Inspiration From Heaven

The second nature of Sage/Rasul is ERH/Ting. He hears /listen and
receive NEWS /Knowledge /Inspiration or REVELATION from the Unseen,
Divine Presence / God. Like the verse of Quran : Sami'na wa
atha'na , ghufranaka wa ilaikal Masir. The Rasul/Believers say-We
hear and obey/follow God command. Forgive us and unto You are our
returning. Amana Rasulu bima unzila ilaika ( We believe in the Rasul
for what sent down by Allah. ).

So we understand that the Quranic word – NAZALA or WAHYU means
message from the Divine correspond exactly to the top-bottom /
vertical line in wang character ! The muslims in China differentiate
between the God revered by other religions as TIAN or SHANTI, but
reserved the Majestic Name of Allah as ZHEN ZHU ( the True / Real
God ) . The famous greeting/saying to Muslim guests or travelers
from outside China by the Hui elders are : Zhen Zu Bao Yu Ni ( May
Allah bless and protect you ).

The Metaphor of Divine Reality as Light

If we add another slanted line at top of WANG , its become a new
word : ZHU / MASTER /GOD / LORD. According to an old commentary,
this slanted line represents – LIGHT / ILLUMINATION /GUIDANCE above
the Sage / King, that is Tian/ Divine Reality itself. Chinese
scholars had aptly translated the word-God as ZHEN ZHU in mandarin.
Only Allah Tabaraka wa Taala can give light / guidance to whom He
wants among His Creation. He created the Angels/Malaikat from
light /NUR. Possible explanation is : the Rasul/ Sage receive the
wahyu through Angel Jibrail which is also a Light from Allah Taala.
There are many ayats of Quran to confirm these meanings:

Allahu Nurus Samawati wal-ardh..
Mathalu nurihi..Nurun alan-nur. Yahdi'Llahu li-Nurihi man yasyaa.
Innaha Allah bi-kulli syain Alim.
( Allah is the Light of Heaven and Earth.The similitude of His
Light..Light upon light.He guides to His Light Whom He wills.
Verily Allah has power over everything )

Allahu Waliyyul lazina amanu ,
yukhriju minaz-zulumati ilan –nur.
( Allah is the proctector of the Believers,
He brings them out from darkness into Light )

Also from the Hadith : the iman in the mu'min heart are a light
connected to / from the overflowing light of the Rasul. You will
not attain the fullness or sweetness of iman until you love Allah
and His Rasul more than everything else, including your own self.

The Chinese classical teachings had beautiful expositions on the
subject of LIGHT/ ILLUMINATION which correspond to the word – MING
or CHING. This is another subject to be tackled later, why the
Chinese Emperor choose to name his dynasty the Ming-
Glorious/Illuminated Dynasty. Any relation with the letter MIM or
MUHAMMAD in Arabic or MA which used by many HUI Chinese Muslims ? .
MING which means light or brilliant /illumination in Chinese
characters consist of root word of SUN and MOON side by side. In one
Prophetic hadith , the Messenger had said that: `If people put the
sun on my right hand and the moon on my left hand, I will not
desist from carrying out this Divine Teaching from Allah.'

The Great Learning / Ta Hsue

We had strayed a bit far but actually very near to the TA HSUE- THE
GREAT LEARNING. The first principle of Ta Hsue is : TO ILLUMINATE

This are in line with the meanings of Quran : Oh Messenger, We sent you in order to purify them ( yuzakkihim), to teach the Holy Book and Wisdom-Hikmah ( yu-allimuhumul-Kitaba wal Hikmah ). Or wa man yattaqi'Llaha
yaj-al-lahu furqana ( those who fear Allah , will be given the
discrimination –between truth and falsehood ). Rabbana atina min
ladunka rahmatan wa hayyi'lana min amrina rasyada
( Our Lord , bestow us mercy from Your Presence
and guide us right in our affairs ).

Ko – To Teach and Expound The Truth

Now we go to the third composite character in wang /king that is
KO / Mouth which indicated the Sage/Rasul are commanded to speak ,
teach and convey what REVEALED by Allah Taala to humanity at large.
The Rasul / Nabi cannot conceal the Message , hence the word –
TABLIGH – to make clear . to reach out , to make it enter the
intellect or the heart. How to absorb and embody this Divine Words ?
The Companions of the Prophet had done it by the mercy, gift and
power of Allah when many of them had READ , MEMORIZED and PRESERVED
the QURAN in their HEARTS. And make it manifest by their ACTION ,
EMULATION and GUIDANCE from the QURAN. The Quran was written down

later in one whole collection when many of the HAFIZ among the
Companion were killed in jihad. The Messenger s.a.w said :
Illuminate your houses with the recitation of Quran !

Chun Tzi – The Superior Man

What other qualities the Sage had according to Chinese teachings as
similar for the Rasul in Islam ? Now we had to dig further into
CHUNG YUNG ( Doctrine of The Middle Path ).

Confucius clearly define chun tzu ( the superior man ) as the one
who follow and honor the Sages as quoted here :
` The superior man honor / respect / acknowledge ( WEI ) three
things ( in his life ). He acknowledge the Decree of Heaven ( wei
Ming ). He honor the Saying of Sages ( Sheng Ren ) and he honor the
Great Leaders ( Ta ren )'. The small/common ignorance of the Sages
despise their teachings or gain no benefits from it.

The superior man / Chun tzu can compared to the Mumin , Salihun ,
Siddiqun or Muttaqin in the Quranic sense and Prophetic Hadith. The
sufic definition of a salihun is the man with right knowledge, acted
in the right situation , at the right time and right place. Any one
wrong move will hamper his right action or make it ineffective
because of the surrounding forces.

Mencius says : `When Heaven about to confer a great task to a man ,
he will be tested severely unto his very bones, his body, his sinews
and constitution, to make him firm, sincere,pure and strong. Then
when he speak, people will listen and obey `.

The Meaning of Te'– Virtue

We have explored the meanings of wang , zhu , sheng ren and chun
tzu , now one last important word : TE' ( VIRTUE ). This was not
clear to us unless we are chinese educated. Te' was used prevalently
in Chinese classics and highly appreciated. What virtue ? Taqwa ,
iman , ikhlas , birr , amilus salihan or ihsan ? TE' consist of 3
composite words:

First – JEN on the left ( human relation). Second- a sacrificial
vessel of food /offerings to Heaven / God ( WORSHIP ).
Third- a fixed /pure heart (HSIN) at bottom right corner.

It means that man of Te' must have cultivated right/harmonious
relationship or adab /moral link with other men (hablun minas-nas )
such as ruler-subject, husband-wife, son-father/mother, old-young,
scholar-studen ,rich-poor etc. He must also devoted to God by giving
food/gifts to the needy ( spend fisabilillah /infaq / salat wa
zakat). Lastly, he must do it /act in worship with pure
heart/ikhlas, with iman ,gnosis,ilm and obeying God command
( hablun min Allah ). Insya'Allah , we will explore more on this subject in
the next essays. Wa ma taufiqi illa bi'Llah.


1. The Analects saying of Confucius- Arthur Waley
2. Chuang Tzu Inner Chapters
3. Tao Te Ching – James Legger trs.
4. Tao Te Ching – Ma Hung Tui
5. I Ching – J. legge
6. I Ching – Richard Wilhem
7. The Book of Strangers – Sh. Abdal Qadir as-Sufi
8. I Ching – A New Age Guide
9. The Way of Muhammad- Sh. Abdal Qadir as-Sufi
10. I Ching _ A Malay Text (Kota Bharu 1976)
11. A History of Chinese Philosophy – Fun Yulan
12. Ta Hsue and Chung Yung – J.Legge
13. J. Gladneys – Muslims in China
14. Secret History of Ming Dynasty- Yusuf Chang
15. Islam in China – Disraeli
16. Feng Shui – J. Skinner
17. The Way of Tai Chi – AlHuang
18. Zen and Japanese Culture – Dr.Suzuki
19. Heidegger and Asian Philosophy
20. Thus Spake Zarathustra – Nieztche
21. Mathnawi of Rumi
22. The Indication from Signs- Sh. Abdal Qadir as-Sufi

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