From Sharia to Marifa

Week 8: Sufi Piety & the Spiritual Stations in Sufism

Map of the Four Spiritual Stations in Sufism

During Week 8, we learned about some of the tenets of Sufism that promote religious piety and closeness with the Divine. In Sufism, this journey to religious piety is deeply embodied and requires a transformation of the ego self, i.e the nafs. 

The nafs is transformed on the road from the exoteric world, known as the sharia, to the the esoteric world housed in the realms of haqiqah, referred to as “the reality,” and marifa, which is considered Divine wisdom.

This journey to union with the Divine is marked by spiritual stations, known as maqams, and spiritual states, known as hals. By venturing through these various steps, the ego is transformed and moulded into a state that is acceptable when it reaches haqiqah. In this context the “Four Spiritual Stations” in Sufism are: sharia, tariqa, haqiqa, and marifa – the essence of all four stations.

Throughout these class teachings, the imagery of quests and journeys stood out to me. I developed questions around the directionality and the physicality of the journey, especially as I started to feel that this journey was both formulaic and imprecise.

As a result, I chose to produce a creative project using watercolor in order to convey the more blurred areas of the various stations. For the purpose of this project, I created a circular map of the “Four Spiritual Stations” with an accompanying key denoting each station. I chose to contain the spiritual stations within a circle because the circle carries important symbolism in Sufism. It is reminiscent of the movements made by whirling dervishes to convey the Divine’s infinite nature.