The Sharīʿa & Ṭarīqa

In his preface to the fifth book of the Mathnawī Rūmī summarizes
the relationship between the exoteric law (the Sharīʿa), the spiritual
wayfaring which the Sufis undergo (the Ṭarīqa), and the Truth which
is Sufism’s goal (the Ḥaqīqa). He says that the Mathnawī is:

 
. . . setting forth that the Religious Law is like a candle showing the
way. Unless you gain possession of the candle, there is no wayfaring
[i.e., unless you follow the Sharīʿa, you cannot enter the Ṭarīqa]; and
when you have come on to the way, your wayfaring is the Path; and
when you have reached the journey’s end, that is the Truth. Hence
it has been said, “If the truths (realities) were manifest, the religious
laws would be naught.” As (for example), when copper becomes
gold or was gold originally, it does not need the alchemy which is
the Law, nor need it rub itself upon the philosopher’s stone, which
(operation) is the Path; (for), as has been said, it is unseemly to
demand a guide after arrival at the goal, and blameworthy to discard
the guide before arrival at the goal. In short, the Law is like learning
the theory of alchemy from a teacher or book, and the Path is (like)
making use of chemicals and rubbing the copper upon the philosopher’s
stone, and the Truth is (like) the transmutation of the copper
into gold. Those who know alchemy rejoice in their knowledge of
it, saying, “We know the theory of this (science)”; and those who
practice it rejoice in their practice of it, saying, “We perform such
works”; and those who have experienced the reality rejoice in the
reality, saying, “We have become gold and are delivered from the
theory and practice of alchemy: we are God’s freedmen”. . . .21
The law is [theoretical22] knowledge, the Path action, the Truth
attainment unto God.

Foot Notes:
21 On the spiritual significance of alchemy see Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science
of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (London, 1967).
22 It should be remembered that the original meaning of the Greek word
theôria is “viewing” or “contemplation”; doctrine is therefore “a view of the
mountain to be climbed.”

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