Fana

As I mentioned before, the method of analysis or the method of logical reasoning which gets us to where we need to go from an intellectual and spiritual standpoint is known as “Cartesian Doubt.” After the employment of “Cartesian Doubt” and the deconstruction of everything that is before us in terms of appearance and perception, whatever we are left with after deconstruction is what we would deem as the conclusive truth. Cartesian doubt “became the self-evident, inaudible motor which has moved all thought, the invisible axis around which all thinking has been centered” to borrow from Arendt. 

Cartesian doubt arose from the notion that “man had been deceived so long as he trusted that reality and truth would reveal themselves to his senses and to his reason if only he remained true to what he saw with the eyes of body and mind.” It follows that “neither truth nor reality is given, that neither of them appears as it is, and that only interference with appearance, doing away with appearances, can hold out a hope for true knowledge.” 

True knowledge, then, is knowledge of the soul, which is a kind of knowledge that is limited and scarce. As the Quran states in Chapter 17, Verse 85: “And they ask you, about the soul. Say: ‘The soul is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little.’”

This little knowledge regarding the human soul arguably arises from Plato’s “Theory of the Soul” which contends at its core that the soul consists of three components. For one, there is the component of desire. Second, there is the component of reason and intellect. And third, there is the component of judgment. And it is the third component, namely, the component of judgment, from which the ego and egocentricity arises. In turn, the ego has to be fed with the satisfaction of ever-growing desires and lusts, and in turn, the urge to fulfill ever growing desires and lusts leads to a kind of pain and suffering which obstructs and hinders reason and the intellect.

The Greek poet Sophocles considered desire and lust to be a “frantic and savage master” from which man needed to be emancipated and liberated. Shakespeare deemed desire and lust to be a “disease” which drives man into a state of insanity and ‘death’ when he wrote the following in his “Dark Lady Sonnets”:

My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed;
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Islam addresses the issue of the ego and the pain and suffering which arises from the ego through the concept of Fana. What Fana amounts to is the ‘annihilation’ or ‘extinction’ of the ego and thus the end of one’s pain and suffering. In turn, it is the annihilation and extinction of the individual ego which leads to the “development and perfection” of one’s individual life. Hence, the Platonic notion that reality and truth can only be attained through mystical practice, with the fundamentals and the foundation of mystical practice being laid out by Islamic philosophy through the concept of Fana. And it is Fana which is considered to be “the most lofty” of all intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual concepts. 

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