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My understanding is that there are two broad camps in sufism - 'drunken' and 'sober'. I do not know whether the first term is a description taken directly from the Islamic tradition, I take it to mean Allah-intoxicated. I take the second sense to 'see' Allah through the eyes of the intellect.

Is al-Arabi a sober sufi?

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The difference between a drunk and a sober mystic isn't that the former is intoxicated while the latter is intellectual since per definition all mystics (urefa) or in the social term sufis follow the way of the heart. So both the drunk and the sober are intoxicated and driven by the love of Allah; however the difference is in how the love is manifested. For the drunken mystic the intoxication is manifested in acts of love, he goes forth with love and does acts of love. He isn't concerned with the amount of acts but rather the quality of the acts. For example Allamah Tabatabai (a Shia mystic and scholar) used to break his fast during the month of Ramadhan by walking to the sanctuary of Masumah (the sister of Imam Ridha in Qom) and kiss her grave and then head back home to actually eat food. You could say the divine names of beauty is dominating in a drunken mystic.

A sober mystic is one whose love is manifested in obedience. He does acts of obedience and worship and no one is his peer in this regard. Ayatollah Hajj Agha Maliki Tabrizi (another Shia mystic and scholar) is an example of this who with his wailings and long prayers was recognized as Sheikh Munajatian (the sheikh and leader of the invocators). The divine names of majesty are dominating in the sober mystic's heart.

The distinctive characteristic of the late Haji Mirza Ali Agha Qazi was his cheerfulness and faith rather than fear. The same was true of the late Haji Shaykh Muhammad Bahar. On the contrary, the predominant feature of Haji Mirza Jawid Agha Maliki was fear rather than hope and cheerfulness. That is what is indicated by their sayings. According to the gnostic parlance he who is dominated by cheerfulness is called a "drunkard" and he who is dominated by fear is called a "hymist". The best thing is to adopt a middle way in between these two extremes. In other words the devotee should have the highest degree of both the qualities at one and the same time. This degree of excellence is found in the case of the Imams only.

(Source: Allamah Tabatabai, Light Within Me, "Rules of Attaining Spiritual Perfection")

When it comes to Ibn Arabi it appears as if he is more drunk, judging from his texts and biography, albeit he is very balanced compared to many other mystics.

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-1 Answers on this website are expected to provide an Islamic point of view. This answer is entirely from a "mystical" and "Sufi" (not the Islamic kind) perspective. –  Ansari Feb 6 '13 at 16:22
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@Ansari: You cannot reject that there are schools within Islam that follow the mystical path. Of course there are schools which consider the mystical schools as outside of Islam; none the less they are commonly considered within the category of Islam. And the question was as to what the terminology of drunk and sober means within the Islamic mystical school. –  Ehsan Feb 6 '13 at 19:11
    
@Ehsan, closeness to Allah comes only through following the Commandments of Allah as conveyed and practiced by the Messenger (SAWS) and his Companions (RAA). Sufism has little to do with Islam and should rather be considered an offshoot that has a base from Islam & takes off in a different direction. In pure Islam, there is NO method to come close to Allah but the Messenger has conveyed it to us. Saying that one can follow one's own methodology for this is the equivalent of accusing Allah & His Messenger, in that they both "forgot" to give some knowledge to us & these Sufis are doing that now. –  Najeeb Mar 9 '13 at 15:55

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