One of the prominent teachings of Islamic mysticism is that everyone is entitled to their own personal quest for God. An enticing implication of this idea is that one has infinite freedom in making choice of The Path, and nonconformity is not just welcome but highly looked upon, which perhaps is why Islamic mysticism caught on right from its early years. Delivering a serious blow to the contemporary monolithic understanding of religion of the time, it made greater space for spirituality which had almost died when religion began to be commonly equated with the do’s and don’ts of Shari’ah.
The general acceptance of un-orthodoxy slowly altered the way people understood vice and virtue. Being socially deviant did no longer equate with being a sinner. With that came a greater appreciation for all the ways in which people pursued their Creator and lesser scrutiny of how they dressed, behaved and looked. Uniformity was no longer called for. The complex cultural milieu that took birth was rather celebrated. In fact the whole enterprise of judging people from their Zahir (outlook) came crashing down.
Logically so, the Eeman acquired the status of a variable that could not be, or rather, needed not be, physically measured in inches (i.e. how high one’s pants from one’s ankles were, how long one’s beard was etc.) and returned to its original definition of piety.
However, today, more than we want to acknowledge, binary logic runs in the veins of contemporary Dar-ul-Uloom thought, which is sadly the sole representative of religion, rivaled by none. Since the beginning of time, binary logic is known to have made distinctions and bifurcations between different schools of thought instead of bringing about a unification which is the obvious need of time. The result is a highly confused and debated upon system of mainstream Islam. If ever humanity could take a break from that, it was in the period of mystics who made fundamental reformation in the way people saw the religion and taught them its real essence i.e. love, which threads the universe, connecting and molding every fragmented reality into The One.
Rumi makes exactly the same point when he states in his Masnawi Al Maanawi with an authority only he is entitled to:
I have lifted the marrow from the Quran and have left the empty bones for the dogs to quarrel upon.
By bones, he meant endless, trivial debates on Ilm-ul-Kalam that scholars of the time engaged in, leaving out the matters of consequence that demanded greater and immediate attention i.e. spiritual well-being, referred to as “marrow” here. More or less the same thing was said by Jesus as quoted in Matthew [23:23,24].
You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
P.S.: I’d like to expand on this post. Ideas, questions and critiques are welcome.