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  • Rıdvan Demir


Güncelleme tarihi: 17 Nis 2023


(The Nirvana in Buddhism Conception and The Fana Conception in Sufism)

The nirvana in Buddhism conception and the fana conception in Sufism will be examined in this article that I called it as “(to) searches of eternal”. There will be three sections. The first section will be about the nirvana, the second section will be about the fana, and the third section will be a comparison of the nirvana and the fana understandings. In the section about the nirvana, first the literal and etymological meaning of the nirvana will be given, and then the doctrinal interpretations in the early terms of Buddhism will be emphasized.

The necessary stages that should be passed to reach the nirvana and the intellectual and psychological state of the person who reaches the nirvana will be examined. In this way, the true meaning of the nirvana will be understood better. Also, the other terms that are being used instead of the nirvana will be mentioned briefly. Most of the time, the readers will assume those terms, which have very close relation with the nirvana, known. While the relation with the nirvana and life hereafter will be arguing, the different understandings of the nirvana that have general acceptance will be listed. Because the nirvana is probably one of the most important terms in Buddhism, this section will only cover the views of Buddha and his scholars, in another word, the teaching in the early terms. The different views of the nirvana in different religious denominations, schools, locations, and time as well as the contemporary views will not be discussed in the article.

The term fana in Sufism will be examined in the same method that will be used to explain the nirvana. The different views of the fana in different centuries, religious denominations, schools, locations, and even different individual views will not be discussed in the article. The general views and understandings will be explained for both terms, in another word, the early and classical views will be emphasized. Also the arguments like whether the fana is a case or dignity, whether it is a temporary or permanent state will not be discussed. In addition to early views of the fana, the different views of Ibn Arabi, Junayd Bagdadi, Rumi and el-Hallaj will be briefly introduced. The sections, which will not be about etymological meaning of the terms, will help the reader to understand the terms better. In the last section, the similarities and differences between these two terms will be discussed. It will also be mentioned that the differences between these two terms are much more than their similarities. I should admit that in this article, we focused on these two terms so that the readers can easily compare them; the number of pages was not taken into consideration. So, it would achieve the goal, which is a good presentation of the subject.


Etymologically “Nirvana” means blowing out, cooling down or deliverance. It’s the fundamental teaching of Siddhartha Gautama (Sakyamuni / Buddha / 563-483 BC) and the reason of being of Buddhism. Gauthama explains it as: “The vast ocean, o disciples, is impregnated with one flavor, the flavor of salt, so also, my disciples, this law and disciple is impregnated with but one flavour, with the taste of deliverance.”[1] According to the Buddhists nirvana is the farther shore (para), the island (dvipa), the endless (atyanta), the immortal (amrta), the immortal state (amrta pada), the summum bonum (the best / naihsereyasa). It is better than any existence, however pleasant.”[2] In Early times Buddhist scriptures, the word “nirvana” is used in the meaning of “cool of”. It’s a concept that represents the desired, ambition and extinguished ideal person. Even though some western philosophers understood the concept of nirvana as annihilation, it’s not a correct statement. To Buddha people’s desires and emotions are like the fire and nirvana is the water that deflates this fire. Moreover, the most important disciple of Buddha, Sariputta Upatissa, defines the word “nirvana” as to annihilate the desires, hatred and animosity.[3]

Gautama uses a lot of different words in order to convey the state of nirvana. Some of those are: “Sorrowessness (asokam), security (khemam), purity (suddhi), sublimity (panitam), peace (santi), release (vimutti) All these characteristics are the natural outcome of a life of “greed-lessness, hate-lessness, folly-lessness” (alobha, adosa, amoha).”[4] Also Buddha uses these terms in the “third important rule of giving a break to the pains” instead of “nirvana”: complete cessation (nirodho), giving up (cago), abandoning (patinissago) of greed, it is release (mutti) and detachment (annalayo) from greed. It’s possible to go away from the pain where there is no desire. In this case, Gautama uses five different words in the meaning of nirvana but as a surprise “nirvana”, which represents the salvation in his third rule, because he doesn’t use the word “nirvana” a lot. While Sutta Nibbana in his book, uses the word “nirvana” ‘14’ times, the word santi (peace) is used ‘29’ times. As Gauthama says elsewhere, “destruction of greed, greedlessness, eradication of greed, he means nirvana too (Tanhakkhayo virago norodho nibbanam). In order to understand the nirvana completely, it’s important to know about the other teachings of Gautama about the pain. To avoid from the pain is only possible by finding where the pain is. The pain only goes away from its own place. The students of Gautama understand the concept of nirvana as “cooling down”. For example, after serving hot rice from a hot pot, it’s obvious that later on the pot gets cold. That fact explains the word “parinibbana”. The word which is used for the person who becomes well after sickness is “nibbuta”. In this point the fundamental aim of Buddhism is to heal the person who is struggling in the sea of pain and desire and cools him down. Eyes get burn when they contact with the outside world. The same thing happens for the ears, mind, and body. When desire becomes calm down, mind gets liberated. When the mind gets liberated, person’s fire deflates. In this case, nirvana is a life without fire and samsara and nirvana are this world, nothing else. samsara, under the law of karma, is a vicious cycle in the shape of being born in this world, being dead in this world and reincarnate to this world once again. It’s like a slavery, which is chained. Nirvana, under the law of dharma, is the situation of the person who is living this vicious cycle and breaks this chain. The only way of avoiding from samsara is to reach nirvana.[5]

On the other hand, approximately 25 centuries ago in Northern India Siddhartha Gautama (most probably under a fig tree) reached the Nirvana (“enlightened one” / 528 BC). This is both idea and concept. The Sanskrit word “nibbana in pali” is used in India by different religious communities. Also this word is accepted as a big part of the Buddhist Life. The most extended definition of nirvana is “enlightenment”. In the early times, even though it wasn’t used as a technical term in Asia, it was used to convey the peak of spiritual experience. It’s interesting that especially early Buddhists always preferred to use different words other then nirvana in order to express this highest degree. Most times these words express negative meanings: Cessation (nirodho), the absence of craving (trsnaksaya), detachment, the absence of delusion and unconditioned (asamskrt). Although according to the comments of school of Nikayas and the school of Abhidharma it has positive meanings like happiness (sukha), peace and big happiness / bliss, it has other meanings such metaphors of transcendence as the “farther shore” Nirvana means (extinction) and other words are the synonym to it. These words talk about “emancipation”. This is hiding away from ignorance and the state, which is full of pain. According to the scriptures from early times, Nirvana can only be reached by eightfold path. In this path, morality itself is not enough. Spiritual education is needed too.[6] In Buddhism there are eight main principles. In Sutta, Sila (morality/ true word, true attitude, true bread), samdhi (meditation/ true reasoning, true auto control), and panna (wisdom / true understanding, true thought, true intention) are the fundamentals of these eightfold path.[7] It is a must to be a monk / nun in order to reach the nirvana. In this meaning, virginity and monastic order has high significance. Not only for the human being but also for the animals, trees etc. according to the Buddhism, the only way of avoiding the mess of this world is to be born as human. There is no specific and clear explanation for after death situation of the person who reached the nirvana.[8] In the modern world, especially western philosophers, tried to explain nirvana as an archeological object but nirvana is a case study. For a real monk / nun, nirvana is nothing but the final target, most important spiritual experience or highest point to reach.[9]

Nirvana is explained in two general principles. One of these principles has a negative meaning. Second one represents the highest happiness. According to the first one, nirvana is to hide away from the state of being (Nihilistic / pessimistic Buddhism). Second one explains nirvana as a complete happiness. For a monk who reached this point, there is no other happiness than this (nirvana as a happy state / optimistic Buddhism).[10]

I do not wish for life.[11]

At least a perfect nirvana cannot be considered possible in this world. [12]

In particular, the understanding of nirvana will be misunderstood and some problems will arise.[13]

It is necessary here to consider the period of transition from the Samsara state to the Nirvana state. The separation between the two states will display the particularities of the Nirvana state. It is important to note that the process of transition is neither simple nor overnight. Instead the transition occurs at the finalization of a long process of discipline and removal and is described as an instantaneous revelation at the end of an arduous journey. True happiness will take place at the moment of one’s shedding of the ambitions, self-consciousness, and ego-centralism of the previous life period. This transition will take place when the truths of life have been deeply comprehended and effort has been spent in the pursuit of this truth. Doubtless this shedding of earthly passions will not be quick- but only when Gautama’s four stages of consummation have been completed. According to Gautamara, the transition from Samsara to Nirvana, sometimes described as attaining the farther shore, takes place in four stages in which one parts with the following ten bonds from material being.

1. Self-illusion or pride, 2. Doubt or flimsiness of mind, 3. Trust in the superstitious power of rites and ritual, 4. Desire for sense of gratification, 5. Hatred or ill will, 6. Desire for physical goals, 7. Desire for nonphysical objects such as power and prestige, 8. Self-conceit, 9. Restlessness or aimless rushing about, 10. Ignorance.

These bonds must be broken one by one, as they are the roots of one’s enslaver. The first stage (Sotapanna or sovan): resembles the initial stepping into the river. One has broken the main bonds, yet has not attained perfection- or a complete disconnection with the material world. Though the attainment of this initial stage does imply that one will never again be a permanently fallen being, one still carries the risk of backtracking seven times. The second stage (once returner / sakadagami): described by Gautama is characterized by a more dedicated following of doctrine and Buddhist path. This may occur only once and temporarily. The third stage (the non-returner/ Anagami): is characterized by the permanent breaking off of the fourth and fifth bonds which were weakened in the previous stages. There is no longer a risk of backtracking at this stage. Yet the final five cords are not yet broken. The fourth and final step (The perfect one- Arahat): is when the sixth through tenth bonds are broken. One has reached the further shore, and attained perfect Nirvana.[14] One that has passed these four stages has attained a status of ‘life after death’. There exist four strains of analysis on the technical definition of the of nirvana, which I will consider here:

1. Optimistic Interpretation of Nirvana: Though Nirvana is sometimes interpreted as an annihilation- the state of Nirvana is not nothingness after death. Perfect Nirvana is liberation from insanity. 2. Emotional Interpretation of Nirvana: Nirvana is the attainment of an emotional dissolution, though this dissolution is not entirely a transition from being to nothingness. Nirvana is the disappearance of negative emotional states such as sorrow and ambition among others. 3.Agnostic Interpretation of Nirvana: One need not concern oneself with the question of death and afterlife for the attainment of inner peace and of nirvana. Gautama has remained silent on this issue in accordance with traditional Buddhism. 4. Intellectual interpretation: The fundamental question is the attainment of maturity and nirvana. The pursuit of answers to the question of the afterlife and other metaphysical questions are obstacles to the attainment Nirvana. In essence the answers to these questions are irrelevant to the transition from samsara to nirvana. Gautama has stated that nirvana is not a door from life to a life after death state. It is instead a transition to a separate intellectual and cerebral awareness. [15]

My research has led me to conclude that our knowledge about nirvana is limited by the testimony and characterizations provided by the Buddhists. It would be wrong, and unscientific of one to comment on things that Buddhists themselves cannot decide on and even Gautama does not comment on. I believe that Nirvana is an intellectual maturity and emotional happiness, which is possible to attain within the confines of our world of the living. Nirvana as a concept cannot be explained but can only be experienced to understand it completely. According to Buddhist data, it is a state of wisdom attainable in this world by the extinction of one’s desire, ambition, hate and sorrow, by a sense of cooling down.


Fana is a concept in Sufism, which means the attainment of the status of the truest servant to Allah through attaining an intellectual and spiritual consciousness of even losing the sight of own individual actions and behaviors. The Arabic word ‘fana,’ whose dictionary meanings are ‘to be temporary,’ ‘to extinguish,’ or ‘to die,’ has generally been used together with the word ‘baqa,’ which means ‘to exist,’ or ‘to be permanent.’[16] The Quran cites derivatives of these two words.[17]

The concept ‘fana’ is generally used together with its antonym ‘baqa.’ The real meaning of the word ‘fana’ is ‘to extinguish,’ and it is generally used with the preposition ‘from’ (‘an in Arabic). In contrast, the word ‘baqa’ is generally used with the preposition ‘with’ (bi in Arabic). (i.e. al-fana’ ani’l avsat al mazmuma va’l baqa bi’l avsaf al mamduha / to leave from characters which is blamed / reproach and to stay with characters which is praised) The word ‘fana,’ firstly, is used in describing ethical principles as the example above shows. Secondly, it is used to mean losing the consciousness of one’s own actions and behavior. In this state of being, the behaviors and actions of a servant only take place for the sake of Allah. The servant attains the consciousness that there is no doer but Allah (la fail illallah). The servant enters completely under the control of Allah. In this state of being, Allah saves the servant from all sins. The servant saves from selfish desires, and attains the truest path. He becomes filled with the love of Allah. A Sufi, in this state of being, attains the top of mystical monotheism. The Sufi engages with Allah to such an extent that he/she loses his/her ego; and Allah replaces his/her consciousness. If the Sufi attains this status through dhikr (remembrance of Allah through the repeating His names), this is called ‘al-fana’ fi’l mazkur.’ Instead, if he/she attains it through the love of Allah, it is called al fana’ fi’l mahbub. In this state of being, some words that seem contradictory to the religion may be spelled by the sufi like Al-Hallaj’s ana al-haqq / ‘I am the divine truth.’ This is called ‘shathiyyat.’ This sentence is interpreted that this sentence not from al-Hallaj, but it is from Allah who is into al-Halaj.[18]

From the commonly held information, the sources on Sufism provide, we understand that the first Sufi who defined and used the words fana-baqa was Ebu Said el-Harraz (d. 277/890(?) ). According to him, fana is the servant’s avoidance from seeing his/her servant; baqa is the servant’s permanency in his/her perception of Allah’s actions. This is because non-avoidance of seeing one’s servant would mean perceiving the source of servant in the ego, and to have a trust in it. The Sufis say that this state of being is a barrier in front of one’s spiritual development. In the state of not-seeing even one’s own actions and behaviors, it is accepted that the servant attains the status of the truest servant. According to Kelabazi, for Ebu Said El-Harraz the status of ‘fana has three levels: 1- the disciple lost his/her feelings of happiness and concerns about this life and the life in hereafter; 2. The disciple lost his/her happiness emanating from attaining level 1; 3. Finally, the disciple attains the point where he/she even does not perceive his/her status attained at level 2. In this state of being, he is burned with the love of Allah, and lives in a state of being called ‘fena’ul fena’ in which he is even unconscious of his/her existence. Realizing that one is in a status of ‘fana,’ [level 2 without attaining level 3] means living in a state of being where one does not engage with the Absolute Truth (Haqq).[19]

Junayd Bagdadi (d. 297-910 AC), who describes Sufism as a state of being in which Allah kills one’s ego, but revivify it in Himself, analyzes the psychological states of a Sufi in three stages like el-Harraz. One very common description of ‘fana’ belongs to Abu Yakub en-Nahrajuri. According to him, ‘fana’ is a status in which one loses the sight of his/her own existence and behaviors with respect to Allah; ‘baqa’ is a status in which one observes the will of Allah in religious principles.

Muhyiddin ibn al-‘Arabi (AH 560-638 / 1165-1240 CE), who accepts the description of Nehrecuri, accepts the sameness of the word ‘ihsan’ and ‘fana’ in meaning in his ‘Kitab’ul Fena.’ A hadith defines ‘ihsan’ as a state of being in which one worships Allah as if he/she sees Him. In his el-Futuhatu’l Mekkiyye, he classifes ‘fana’ into seven groups by ordering them as extinguish of behaviors, of attributes, of individuality, of universe, of everything but Allah, and finally of all attributes of Allah and relationships among them. Sayyid Sharif Jurjani describes ‘fana’ as extinguish of bad attitudes and ‘baqa’ as nurturing good attitudes. He further classifies ‘fana’ into two: the first is ethical ‘fana’ as described in the definition, which is attained through struggle with the self and abstinence; the second is the status of losing all perceptions about this life, which can be attained through testimony and spiritual (immaterial) pleasure.[20]

According to Ibn-I Arabi, Etymologically, fana means disappearance. As a technical term, it is the disappearance of the ego or total self-nullification. This self-nullification means the disappearance of the world which is perceived by “I”. And in this case one can define unlimited metaphysics, which was called “Ahad” / “the absolute one”, by Ibn-i Arabi. “Ahad” is the condition of being uncertain, unidentified and undetermined in the absence of Allah. One becomes aware of one thing after reaching fana, an absolute unity; that person sees nothing but only the unity. In this metaphysical awareness, everything turns around “the one” except “the one” who is Allah, because He is Ahad / one. One should not stop when the fana is reached; this shows taint, and means one could not reached the perfect level yet. A real Sufi should be able to use both of his eyes, a proper union of the opposites, and see the one and many at the same time. A real sufi must care beyond fana to baqa as well namely he / she must be stay (survival) in this life. It is obvious that one and many must be seen together. They are not two opposite things; it is appropriateness of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum). A favorite metaphor of Ibn-i Arabi: “possessor of two eyes / dhu al-aynanyn”, it is fundamental to see both divine and mortal world. In other words, it is seeing Allah in the mortal world while seeing mortal world in Allah. It is basically, the reflection of many by one, and the presence of the one in many. The truth is possible only with this metaphysics and ontological aspects.[21]

Al-Husayn ibn Mansur (AH 244-309/857-922 CE), al-Hallaj, was known as the martyr of mystical love, was also known as heretic in his term. He was asked who was he while waiting on the door of Junayd al-Bagdadi, he replied “Ana al-haqq” / “I’m the creative truth.” Even though the correctness of this legendary story wasn’t proved, “Ana al-haqq” exist in important texts in Kitab al-tawasin, the book he wrote in his last years. In Islamic literature this kind of expressions are called theopathic locutions (shathiyyat). There are different statements about his death; commonly it is known that he was executed since he divulged the secret (ifsha al-sirr).[22]

It is not permissible for any one to speak out the level he reached. Also, the word “haqq” is one of the names of Allah, and of course that “I’m the God” can be understood from his word. In Sufism, the secrecy of the love to Allah is a must and very important.

Sufis feel that “Our souls mix each other, like wine and water.” Because of his poems like this and similarities, he has been also accused to believe in incarnation. But he only witnessed to the unity of Allah, since he was living in this unity. (Huwa Huwa / He is He). Thus this understanding of his was “I” understanding that he was seeing unity of Allah everything. On the other side, in the book he wrote in prison, he mentions the moth and candle story. Around a candle, the moths circling the fire discuss about what the fire is. Then one of them decides to enter in to the fire in order to understand it. Only that moth understood the meaning of fire. The fire in the story is the glory of Allah. Over this story, Al-Hallaj says he also burns with the love of Allah, and found the reality of the reality. There is very famous and parallel story of Attar.

On the other hand, in his book, al-Hallaj surprisingly mentions about Pharaoh “I’m your Lord, most high”[23] and Devils (Iblis) “I’m better than him (Adam)”.[24] When he compares those two sentences from Qur’an with his legendary sentence, he says he doesn’t abandon his sentence and it’s meaning, and continues still to live in fana. The Muslims who were living in Bagdat in the same term shockes about his claims. In following centuries, Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi explains this issue; “Pharaoh saw only himself while al-hallaj saw only God-hence his claim was a sign of grace while Praraoh’s claim turned into a curse.” According to Hallaj his sentence means “Juhudi laka taqdis” / “my rebellion means to declare thee holy”. He was really a lover of the Allah, he was really seeing only Allah and his sufferings became a favorite symbol of personal piety.[25] He probably substituted people’s reckoning about his rebellion as his own rebellion in his sentences.

Junayd summarizes the state of a sufi who reached fana as follows: Whenever Sufis reach fana, Allah emerges/arises in them. The words they use become the truth of Allah. When Allah overruns them, owns their beings, and removes their beings from them they no longer have their own desires and freedom of choice. This state of mind cannot be thought of or understood by others. Their inner beings disappear completely, and there is nothing but God left in them. Only Allah knows about this state of mind. However, this does not mean that Allah incarnates in them, he is completely separate and other from them. This cannot be known by people who do not experience it, and those who do not experience it cannot describe it. As narrated in a Qudsi Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuH) briefly says the following: God loves his servant/mortal so much that he becomes his hearing ear, and seeing eye. Junayd Bagdadi states that this fact cannot be internalized by regular people. He also states that Allah will help his servant and guide him to the path of truth. With this guidance Allah provides the consummation of his servant. A Sufi who consummates, reaches fana, but actually he does not realize his level. Once a Sufi reaches the perfect fana, he realizes that the destruction his self in this world (fana) prevents his existence (baqa). Therefore, once Allah converts him back to a normal human form, Sufi feels great sorrow and pain both emotionally and intellectually. In this state of soul and mind, he lives in despair. Thus, normal people observe Sufis in despair most of the time. Sufi desires to return his original state of fana after his fana-baqa period.[26]

Highest degree of fana perfect fana / al-fana an al-fana, is the negation of absence. A Sufi in this state/level does not even realize that he lives fana. Even the state of existence in God and non-existence in self disappears. Sufi becomes unconscious in this state: he is so with God that he does not even realize the higher emotions and happiness that emerges from this state, and he feels that he is with God but is separated from him. Sufi now feels nothing but the existence of God. Fana is the highest degree in approaching Allah, takarrub ila’l Haqq. Sufi finally reaches God. Some suggest that he “sees” god in this state, but we do not support this idea. This issue of “seeing” Allah in the world, ru’yetullah, is a very controversial topic among many scholars. In general, it is accepted that he cannot be seen by bare eyes of human beings in this world. One anecdote of Moses in Quran, states his desire and prayers to see God and God’s rejection by stating that he cannot be seen is the reasoning behind this general acceptance. Therefore, we cannot say that one who reaches fana sees God. It is very interesting to observe that as a continuation to this Ayah, God’s reflection on mount Tur, Moses’ fainting[27] and the story of women cutting their hands whenever they see handsome prophet Joseph have been used as evidence from Quran by the Sufis in order to prove that Islamic Sufis can actually reach fana in this world. But it should be noted that none of these verses could be used as evidence to assert that God can be seen in this world. General acceptance is on that this is not possible. However, a Sufi, who has very deep emotional and intellectual intensities, can feel Allah very deeply and sincerely. Fana is like the disintegration of a piece in the big picture, a drop in the ocean or shade in sun. Similarly, Sufi desires to reach Allah and disintegrate/disappear in him.[28]

Even if there are some Sufis who define the last stage of Sufi life differently, most of them see fana-baqa as the last stop in this life long journey towards Allah. As stated before, the word fana which is used in the context of “follower’s extinguishing bad habits and properties, and acquiring good characteristics in their places”, is acknowledged as the replacement of ignorance with knowledge, awareness with dhikr (remembrance of Allah through the repeating His names), oppression with justice, ingratitude with gratitude, anything other than God and sin with obedience and worship in the early stages. As the Sufis enriched their ideas and determinations about the mystic cases they experienced, the concepts fana and baqa also earned interesting and more detailed dimensions. So, in this case, it is possible to claim that there is more than one of fana understandings in Sufism.[29]

Another important evidence that has been used by the Sufis is the fire and iron metaphor. Similar to fire changing hot and black iron into hot and white form, love of God can also make some changes in some people’s lives. After the foundation of the orders of dervishes, the concept of fana acquired new dimensions and meanings as it extended beyond the direct human-God relationship. Fana fi’l ihvan (to reach / to appearance, to mingle to the brothers), fena fi’s-sheikh (to master), fena fi’l-pir (to the pir - founder of an order), fena fi’r-rasul (to prophet Muhammad (pbuH)) and fena fi’llah (to Allah) are the most common ones. A disciple / follower, who connects with a sheikh, and submit himself, obeys the recommendations of him without any exceptions, loves him and thus finishes the first stage. Next, his sheikh tells him about the founder of the order, and causes him to love the pir. Then he is left alone with his pir’s immaterial effect. This way, follower can focus on his ideas, perspectives and recommendations. Thirdly, disciple loses himself in the love of the prophet Muhammad (pbuH). Fena fi’r rasul is the entrance and door towards fena fi’llah since loving his messenger is a prerequisite for loving Allah himself[30]. Fena fi’llah creates a feeling of confidence in addition to happiness. Follower obtains peace and bliss with this drunkenness of spirituality.[31] According to Sarraj, it is not actually God which enters the heart, but the feeling of faith, unity and high respect towards him. Fana is not considered as the “union” with God, but fully knowing and understanding God’s ultimate decree and might.

As a result fana means that a Sufi’s experience of fana is his witnessing of Allah’s almighty and exaltation very closely, his forgetfulness of world and hereafter in God’s highness, and his unconsciousness of his degree. In this state, sufi’s tongue talks with Haqq / Allah, his body keeps peace, his spirit becomes pure and clear.[32] H. Ritter states that there are no similarities between Nirvana in Buddhism and fana in Islam.[33]Nicholson pointed towards the fact that fana has always been considered with baqa (baqa bad’el fana).[34]



In this chapter, it will to compare understandings of nirvana and fana (of cases or dignity) briefly. It will to make a point of similarities of both as well as differences that is more than similarities.


1. Words of both also are different as etymologic and technical meanings. Nirvana means cool off / cool down and it is life which has extinguished in the fire. Whereas fana means disappear / temporary and when servant reaches to Allah it is to live state of person in Allah.

2. While nirvana is main principal of Buddhism, fana is not main principal of Islam; indeed, it is essentiality to reach to nirvana in Buddhism. Otherwise it is impossible to salvation from samsaric life. Whereas there is not essentiality to reach to fana in Islam, because reincarnation is not a belief base of Islam, fana as well.

3. Nirvana is salvation / deliverance from sorrows and sad in which this world. Whereas fana is to burn with love of Allah. After fana-baqa, sufi wants to comeback to fana again therefore sufi sorrows and saddens.

4. Nirvana understanding in which Buddhism has concerning nihilism problem as well as when it can not explain some realities it wants to eliminate them with agnostic understanding or explaining. Whereas fana has been discussed together baqa (exist / survival) by sufies and it has not like these problems.

5. When sufi reaches fana he / she can say or talk which opposite of brain and main principles of Islamic belief (shathiyyat). Nevertheless sufi who is reach almost leaves point of insanity despite, nirvana is salvation from insanity and it is “cool off” and also “cool down” / “quiet down”.

6. Nirvana is to move away from egocentric and also from insight toward outside, it is very interesting that fana is to see and to feel Allah in self and it is a face / bear toward insight.

7. A person who has reached nirvana necessary to help to people who have chances less in which society. Nirvana centralizes relation of human-human, whereas sufi who has reached fana main being is relation of human-Allah.

8. While nirvana is an intellectual perfection / maturity more than emotional maturity, fana is a emotional perfection / maturity more than intellectual maturity.

9. Sufi who has reached fana trances insomuch as that sufi is not awareness of this case. Any more starts to live Allah into him / her or starts to live Allah in his / her heart so whole control passes from sufi to Allah that sufi believes and feels Allah intellectually and sincerely. While there is a transcendental (muteal) / supreme one in fana understanding of Islam it does not seem a transcendental one in nirvanic understanding in Buddhism.

10. State of man (monk / nun) who has reached nirvana can inexplicable life of him / her concerning after death, at least, it is a principle to stay disinterested / noncommittal in those subjects. Whereas in understanding of fana, sufi knows as very clear that he / she will reach to Allah after death of he / she, because death does not means nonexistence according to hereafter belief principle of Islam.


1. For nirvana and also fana understandings, we can says which is to stop negative desires, wishes, greed and ambitions and it is auto control as well. Besides it is to leave and abandon from this world and all of carnal one and also all fleshes and to neutralize him or her.

2. To reach methodologies is possible with full life moral and virtuous. Honesty, righteousness and devoutness are base.

3. Both it is a concept and case as well as top border / last stop place.

4. Both spiritual experience as well as it is reach intellectual maturity.

5. Both can reach in this world namely in this life before death.

Finally, after all I want to say that nirvana and also fana means to annihilate, extinction bad desires and emotions in which being nature of human. Nevertheless as reason nature of human, it is eternal pursuits / searches for to reach eternal happiness / bliss, indeed, both it is want / longing to arrive to eternal as very powerful or eternal one.


Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, Eleventh Edition, Maryland 2004.

Annemarie Schimmel, Encyclopedia of Religion, “al-Hallaj”, New York 1986, VI., p. 173.

Cuneyd-i Bagdadi, Hayati, Eserleri ve Mektuplari, trs., Suleyman Ates, Istanbul 1969, p. 136-137.

Fernando Antony, Leonard Swidler, Buddhism Made Plain, New York 1985, p. 53-54. (Sensei Sevan Ross, handouts, p. 38-42).

Gunay Tumer, “Budizm”, Diyanet Islam Ansiklopedisi (DIA), Istanbul 1992, VI.

Helmuth Ritter, “Fena”, Islam Ansiklopedisi, Milli Egitim Bakanligi (IA), 1948, IV.

L. De La Vallee Poussin, “Nirvana”, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ERE), IX., New York 1917.

Mustafa Kara, “Fena”, Diyanet Islam Ansiklopedisi (DIA), Istanbul 1995, XII.

Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, Lahore 1983, p. 55, see other p. 218.

Thomas P. Kasulis, “Nirvana”, Encyclopedia of Religion (ER), New York 1987, X.

Toshihiko Izitsu, Encyclopedia of Religion, “ ibn ‘Arabi”, New York 1986, VI. p. 555.

[1] L. De La Vallee Poussin, “Nirvana”, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ERE), IX., New York 1917, p. 376. [2] Poussin, “Nirvana”, ERE, p. 377. [3] Gunay Tumer, “Budizm”, Diyanet Islam Ansiklopedisi (DIA), Istanbul 1992, VI., p. 356-357. [4] Fernando Antony, Leonard Swidler, Buddhism Made Plain, New York 1985, p. 53-54. (Sensei Sevan Ross, p. 41-42). [5] Antony, Swidler, p. 47-49. [6] Thomas P. Kasulis, “Nirvana”, Encyclopedia of Religion (ER), New York 1987, X., p. 448. [7] Tumer, “Budizm”, DIA, p. 353. [8] Tumer, “Budizm”, DIA, p. 356-357. [9] Poussin, “Nirvana”, ERE, p. 376. [10] Poussin, “Nirvana”, ERE, p. 376-377. [11] Poussin, “Nirvana”, ERE, p. 378. [12] Kasulis, “Nirvana”, ER, p. 448-449. [13] Kasulis, “Nirvana”, ER, p. 453-454. [14] Antony, Swidler, p. 50-51. [15] Antony, Swidler, p. 52. [16] Mustafa Kara, “Fena”, Diyanet Islam Ansiklopedisi (DIA), Istanbul 1995, XII, p. 333. [17] See en-Nahl, 16/96; er-Rahman, 55/26-27. [18] Helmuth Ritter, “Fena”, Islam Ansiklopedisi, Milli Egitim Bakanligi (IA), 1948, IV., p. 546. [19] Kara, DIA, “Fena”, p. 333-334. [20] Kara, DIA, “Fena”, p.334. [21] Toshihiko Izitsu, Encyclopedia of Religion, “ ibn ‘Arabi”, New York 1986, VI. p. 555. [22] Annemarie Schimmel, Encyclopedia of Religion, “al-Hallaj”, New York 1986, VI., p. 173. [23] en-Nazi’aat., 79:24. [24] al-A’raf, 7:12. [25] Schimmel,“al-Hallaj”, ER, p. 175. [26] Cuneyd-i Bagdadi, Hayati, Eserleri ve Mektuplari, trs., Suleyman Ates, Istanbul 1969, p. 136-137. [27] el-A’raf, 7/143. [28] H. Ritter,“Fena”, IA, p. 546-547. [29] Kara, DIA, “Fena”, p. 333. [30] Al-i Imran, 3/31. [31] Kara, DIA, “Fena”, p. 334. [32] Kara, “Fena”, DIA, p.335. [33] Ritter, “Fena”, IA, p.547. [34] See, Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, Lahore 1983, p. 55, see other p. 218.


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