I was talking about malamat recently, and thought, “This has been such an important idea for me, but very few other people know anything about malamat, so, start the conversation.” ;-}
“Malamat” is a sufi idea, one I think of as being popularized by the sufi saint-poet Hafiz, altho it seems to have been a part of certain streams of sufi tradition much earlier than Hafiz, stretching back to pre-islamic sufism.
The word malamat is a bit tricky to translate – one interpretation is “defamation”, but I think it probably translates best to english as “blame”, or perhaps “blameworthy”.
The idea of malamat is that it is an ethical/spiritual obligation of the more advanced practicioner to “accept the blame”.
This is an idea that can be pretty shocking – we tend to have a popular view of ‘spiritual’ practicioners as becoming less and less blameworthy, of becoming pure, and of not deserving to be blamed for the problems of people or of the world. If, as an example, there is a dispute between a person, say a student or a friend, and an advanced practicioner, the principle of malamat says it’s the advanced persons responsibility to “accept the blame” for the dispute, and especially to resist the all-too-human tendency to blame the weaker for the problem.
I’m going to oversimplify this a bit, and say that the idea is that the more advanced person “cleans the world” by accepting the blame, and refusing to allow the blame to flow back to others. The more advanced person can take the blame, because they have the mental tools to defuse the blame and the bad feelings surrounding the blame. They are, in principle, less attached to being “right” individually, and they are supposed to understand that the bad feelings surrounding blame and disputes are minor, temporary things, that they are equipped to resolve, while others might not be so well equipped.
You would think that accepting the blame would make the practicioner feel bad, but it’s kind of the reverse – you understand that you are cleaning the world, and that somebody has to do this kind of maintenance. It’s part of the work.
There’s a danger in malamat, the obvious danger of pride. If you let yourself get puffed up about doing malamat, well, you haven’t cleaned the world, you’ve just added a bit more puffery and pretense to it.
Malamat should probably be considered a fairly advanced practice.
Here’s a nice page on Hafiz I found…
I liked this bit on Hafiz’s famous use of the metaphor of the “sly man”.
“8. A “sly person” according to Hafiz has the following characteristics:
Detachment from fame, honor, and prestige.
Joyfulness at the midst of affliction and suffering.
Seeking salvation without having any unnecessary worry.
Balance, posture, and anti-extremist.
Criticalness of social-religious norms.
Permissiveness and “anti-moralism”
Not trusting in “Piety” and “knowledge”
Concerned deeply with love and inner sincerity.
9) Detachment and blame
Historically, the concept blame (Malamat) developed in Khurasan around 3d -9th century due to the fact that sincere Sufis tried to exercise “purification of intentions”(ikhlas). These Sufis tried their best to have a “pure heart”, and, consequently lost their interest in the opinion of others let me list some major dimensions of blame as one can delineate in verses of Hafiz:
Blame is the result of “true love”. [The master] told me: blame will arise if you get involved with love. I do swear to God; we have not seen love without blame.
A blamer Sufi is “faithful”, suffers the blame of others and “happy” and paradoxically does not suffer at all! “