Monday, May 30, 2011

In Islam, there is no altar - We are the altar. There are no images of Divinity - We are the divine image

Members of the Noetic Science Association of New York City were studying meditation in various contexts and requested Sheikh Nur, may Allah be pleased with him, the author and thinker Lex Hixon, to speak about what they called "Sufi meditation." On a weekday night, several of their members visited the beautiful third-floor music room of the Masjid al-Farah in southern Manhattan, where Sheikh Nur al-Jerrahi guided the Pir Nureddin al-Jerrahi dervish community for fifteen years. A spontaneous meeting of minds occurred, and this unusual discourse, taped on audio and later carefully edited and clarified by Sheikh Nur, was the result. Both dervishes and visitors were moved by the range, depth, and tenderness of these words as richly presenting Islamic Sufism and by the atmosphere of light that surrounded them on that special evening.

I am sharing a portion of this conversation here: 

Sheikh Nur: The preliminary for meditation is this: to establish a beautiful atmosphere. In Islam, there is no altar. We are the altar. There are no images of Divinity. We are the divine image. Human beings were created in the divine image. So now we are offering tea to this perfect image. We are seeing each other in a perfect light.

Visitor: Noetic Sciences was founded by the astronaut Edgar Mitchell. On the way back from his trip into space, he had a realization that the universe is loving and intelligent and purposeful. His background gave him no preparation for this experience. Apparently, a number of the astronauts have had more or less similar experiences, but he decided to found an organization that would study the interface between science and spirituality. His background was scientific, and he wanted to see if there was some way that one could understand the connection between science and spirituality.

Sheikh Nur: We will adopt that analogy. We are in an astronautical capsule right now. The universe is opening up above us, around us. All mystics of the great traditions have been astronauts into spiritual space and into physical space, because mystics walk through planetary experience, too, and perceive the Divine. They do not have to go to outer space or to inner space. They find sacred space everywhere. We are engaged in the countdown now. Instead of getting rocket engines prepared, we have to prepare the right kind of sweets, the right kind of tea, the right kind of fragrance, the right kind of friendship, the right kind of respect. All this is part of preparing for our lift-off.

I’m so glad to know the background of your Noetic Society. It’s a large organization - tens of thousands of members, isn’t it?

Visitor: When I last heard, it was about forty thousand in various parts of the world.

Sheikh Nur: That’s quite a mystic order, forty thousand. Founded by a very modern person who had a profound spiritual experience. The founder of our order lived about three hundred years ago in Istanbul. He had extraordinary experiences, made possible by the spaceships that were available then.

Visitor: Can you tell us about what happened to him?

Sheikh Nur: Yes. He finished his extensive education in sacred law when he was about nineteen. He was already married. He had been appointed from Istanbul, which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire at that time, to go to Egypt and function as a Grand Mufti there, to give consultations on sacred law. The night before he was to leave, with everything packed and his passage on the ship secured, his uncle took him to a place like this, where you are tonight. The dervishes began chanting and whirling. Young Nureddin entered ecstasy. He took off his jacket and threw it in the center of the circle, which means he renounced his independent career and placed himself under the guidance of the sheikh. Everything was unpacked. His wife went to stay with her family, and he spent three years in intensive retreat.

When he was twenty-six, he had completed his total spiritual training, and his sheikh received the inspiration from Allah that Nureddin Jerrahi should start a new branch of the order. The young man, flanked by two supremely mature dervishes in their eighties, strolled a few miles from the tekke, the dervish lodge, into the center of Istanbul to found a new tekke. They had no money. They had nothing. The night before, the Sultan and also one vizier both had dreams that a young man flanked by two old sages would be coming into the city and would be founding a new mystic order, and that the state should open its coffers in order to give them funds. So the vizier went and easily found this configuration, one young man and two old men. They were just joyfully strolling. With the money that was provided they bought a beautiful old wooden house.

Lex Hixon with Sheikh Muzaffer Ashki
Sheikh Muzaffer Ashki, the nineteenth successor of Nureddin Jerrahi, arrived in New York in 1978. He similarly came with no particular money and no particular plan of how to establish a new tekke. He met the beautiful, radiant young couple who are sitting on either side of me right now. They are not as young as they were in 1978 but still as beautiful. They provided the means by which my Sheikh Muzaffer could establish the Jerrahi Order in New York City. That is the way it happens - spontaneously, by Divine Will.

This spontaneous unfolding is the secret, the art of meditation and of life. It is very personal. In the oral tradition of Islam, the Day of Judgment is described as the personal meeting of every soul with its Lord. It is not done with vast numbers of humanity stretching out beyond the horizons, and Divine Reality, as it were, sitting on a throne, judging. It is an individual, one-to-one, one-within-one experience.

Visitor: Does it happen at a particular time?

Sheikh Nur: It happens three times. The first time the Day of Judgment happens is every moment. The second time it happens is at one’s physical death. The third time is at the culmination of history, when Being Itself will return into the glorious Source of Being. Those are three very real Days of Judgment.

I might add, a fourth time when it occurs is every Friday at the Friday prayers of Islam, which are called Juma, the gathering. That day, there is a reflection on earth of the cosmic Day of Judgment. A fifth time it happens is when the pilgrims on the pilgrimage to Mecca gather on the plain of Arafat. That is also a reflection in space and time of the cosmic Day of Judgment. The first three instances are metaphysical, and the other two are historical, earthly reflections.

The amazing thing about the Day of Judgment is that there is nothing but infinite Divine Mercy manifest on that day. There is no judgment as we understand it from any limited human standpoint. Allah says of Himself in the oral tradition, transmitted by His beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, “My Mercy extends completely beyond My Justice.” The Divine Quality of Justice is one of the facets of Supreme Reality, but the Divine Mercy extends infinitely beyond that. It is the essence of Supreme Reality. So the Day of Judgment is the day of infinite Mercy. In that Mercy, there can occur what we would consider chastening. There can be what we consider suffering, because people have to face themselves and be purified by the spiritual fire of Truth. Not physical fire. This Day of infinite Mercy is terrible in the sense that it can cause terror to the soul because it is such overwhelming mercy.

In the Holy Quran, there is an interesting description of a particular soul who, when first awakening into the Resurrection, cries, “O Allah, please do not return me into my limited body.” Our physical body, although it is an amazing body with tremendous spiritual reach, is limited. The soul is a limitless reality. This limitless reality cries, “Do not place me back inside limitation again.” Allah replies in this Quranic passage, “Look at your body.” The soul looks and sees that its body of resurrection is a body composed of light and love. In fact, it is a limitless body. Then the true mystery of the Resurrection begins to dawn on the soul, and the soul enters an ecstatic state of praise.

On the Day of Judgment that is appearing at every second we can also have this experience. We can experience our spiritual bodies. These spiritual bodies can appreciate fragrances and beautiful sights and tender touch. In Holy Quran, Allah says that the ones who pray sincerely and deeply will feel Divine Presence touching them through every pore of their skin—not just as a metaphysical presence, but as a direct touch.

Science fiction often depicts planet earth as some kind of prison planet. “If we were more evolved, we wouldn’t be here.” I have heard many New Age people say that. But that is not the Islamic view. This planet is at the very apex of spiritual possibility. The proof of this is that the beloved prophets have manifested here. The prophets are perfect, full human beings. Most prophets have rejoiced in marriage and in family, in food and drink. Most prophets have engaged in deep study and in sacred battle. The complete range of fruitful human experience and responsibility has been engaged in by these perfect human beings to show that there is nothing intrinsically limited here in our earthly life. We create limitations by our egocentric thinking, by our misapprehension. In the Day of Judgment that is happening at every moment, right here and now, we can know this limitless nature of our soul’s experience. We can know the Resurrection.

This merciful Divine Judgment is happening right now within all of us. Look down at your body. It is composed of light. It is composed of love. It is not composed of what we theoretically and conventionally call matter. This experience is only for persons who can see metaphysically during earthly life. At the moment of our physical death, however, there is no avoiding this experience. Quran confirms this. We can avoid looking at our spiritual situation all our lives, but when the body is carried to the grave, then the soul has no recourse but to look at the situation fully. We do not have to wait for thousands or millions of years until the Day of Judgment at the End of Time. Definitely, at the moment of death, we will enter fully into that Day Without Evening.

I do not know what physical theory prevails right now, but according to some theories of the universe, there is an original expansion and then the universe contracts back into a single point. Metaphysically, this is the Quranic or the prophetic view. Creation is not just an endless dissipation into space. Creation has an actual rhythm to it. It reaches a certain point and then returns into its Source.

The Big Bang theory does not say anything about the Source. The Source is not something that can be investigated scientifically, so how can scientists talk about the Source? As human beings, however, we can and must talk about the Source. Creation returning into its Source is not a disappearing, a cancellation. It is the ultimate fulfillment of creation. So at that time, too, there will be a Day of Judgment - very grand, inconceivably magnificent.

The mystics are not confined by time, so they can experience that final return of Being into its Source here and now. They can experience their physical death before they die. Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, often instructed his close companions, “Die before you die.” This was originally a usage of the desert fathers of Christianity. The original form of the statement was, “Die before you die, and resurrect before the Resurrection.” Can you imagine the ancient desert fathers saying that to each other? It is so beautiful. Instead of saying, “hello,” one greets, “Die before you die,” and the other responds, “Resurrect before the resurrection.” Resurrect before the resurrection means that the mystic must experience within himself or herself that final Resurrection, even on the vast scale that it occurs at the end of history, including all living beings throughout space and time.

Calling Itself Allah, the Supreme Source is the One Light illuminating every heavenly and earthly realm. My beloved Muhammad, please transmit this profound meditation. The Light of Allah is the window that opens beyond all creation. On the sill of this shining window rests the precious lamp of the human soul, whose flame is pure and steady, protected by the transparent crystal of the heart that glistens delicately, like a star, with the soul’s light. This lamp, ignited by Divine Love alone, burns aromatic oil from the Tree of Life, that transcendent Tree found nowhere on earth, neither in the East nor in the West. This fragrant oil of wisdom radiates illumination spontaneously, not needing to be touched by any earthly fire. Thus the light of the soul and the Source of Light behind it blend, merge, and reappear in the mystery of eternal companionship, as the Light of Allah within the Light of Allah.

Speaking thus to humanity through the most subtle figurative language, the Source of Wisdom guides to enlightenment whomever It wills, for Allah is the One encompassing Awareness. 
- Meditation on Holy Quran 24: 35

Whatever human beings say about reality, whatever advanced concepts they may hold, the Ultimate Source Who is now speaking will always be more exalted. All that is possible for any being is to praise Allah Most High, for none can describe Him. The very nature and function of Being Itself is to praise the Source and Goal of Being. The entire temporal universe, as well as the seven eternal realms and all the forms of consciousness they contain, are simply the living praise of the Ever-Present Source. To be is to praise Allah. Human beings fail to perceive this boundless praise arising spontaneously from all minds and hearts, or else they would understand instantly why such utter compassion and forgiveness flow to every being from the Source of Love.
- Meditation on Holy Quran 17: 43–44 

Credit to Nur Ashki Jerrahi site and the full conversation revolving around Sufi Meditation can be read from here.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Be still and know your Lord

Harpu u'de'u ki-anokhi Elohim
arum baggoyim, 

arum ba'aretz.

Be still, and know that I am God:
I shall be exalted among the nations,
I shall be exalted in the earth.
- Psalms of David, 46:10

All praise and thanks are due to Allah Most High, and may His benedictions and salutations be upon His messenger, and the progeny and companions of His messenger.

O you who yearn for eternal beauty, traveler on the path of true aspiration, may Allah make you successful in knowing the true way, finding it, and being upon it. May He use you and us in actions that please Him and are done for His sake. For the beginning and the end and what is in between and success in them all, belong only to Him.

The way and means to eternal salvation and bliss in coming close to the Truth. Allah Himself teaches us the meaning of His closeness to us. He teaches us by sending us His prophets. We say, “We believe.” It is the truth. We accept and confirm it. The only thing then left for us to do is to follow the teachings and the examples of His prophet.

First, you must believe in the oneness and uniqueness of the One Who is before the before and after the after, who created us and everything else, and you must not associate with Him anything unbefitting the purity of HIS Essence. He Himself says in His divine book:

If there in them gods besides Allah, (the heaven and the earth) would both have been in disorder (mixing and dashing and being destroyed). (Anbiya, 22)

The wills of many creators would clash and cancel each other, not permitting anything to be or to happen. Therefore, if we and all existence exist, HE – the One and Unique Creator – exists, and He has no associates.

O you with beautiful nature and pure heart, do not debate, discuss, even talk with people who attribute partners to Allah. There is no use in trying to convince them. Even the deniers will finally concede:

And if you ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they will say, the Creator God. (Luqman, 25)

They as well will finally admit an unknown force as the initial Creator of the creation – but they will add to Him further creators. The difference between them and the believers is that they suppose that others, among the created, are also able to create. You do not have to prove to them the existence of Allah. Let them prove, if they can, the existence of His associates.

This is sufficient advice for you on the subject of professing the oneness of Allah. Time is valuable. You cannot be careless with it. If the mind has reached a state in which it is free from doubt and the heart is safe and secure. It makes no sense to disturb this peace with superfluous proofs.

The second matter of importance for one who wishes to learn is the belief that Allah Most High is free from all resemblance to anything visible or invisible in the creation. HE is free from all defect.

There are some who, wanting to see the image of their Creator, err, and liken Him to a human being. Let Allah’s own words be your guide in this. HE says:

Nothing is like HIM. (Surah 11)

Any thought, any word, any quality or attribute not corresponding to this principal is a falsehood, unworthy of the Divine. Therefore seek no further than the fact that none resemble or are like HIM. That is HIS reality. This is also confirmed by the declaration of HIS messenger, who said, “At the beginning was Allah, and none with Him.” The ones who followed him added to this statement, “IT is now as IT was.” As It was before the creation, It is after the creation.

From the time when matter was hidden under the veil of nonexistence and there was no form, nothing has been added or subtracted. Though HE has created the creation, still there are none like HIM. Nothing is like HIM. Nothing is HIM. The divine word that HE is without likeness cancels all other thoughts, claims and interpretations.

You must also accept, and believe, even if you do not understand, the allegorical verses of the Holy Qur’an and the ambiguous statement of the Messenger of Allah concerning the unity and the ultimate cause, as well as the declarations of the prophets which have come to us unaltered. You must consider that the significance of these words is a part of divine knowledge and that as such, you accept them.

The monumental meanings of these holy expressions are for the understanding of people who are close enough to Allah to be able to see His beautiful attributes.

There is no better proof of the perfection of the Divine, who is self-existent and whose existence is necessity for the existence of all else, than the holy verse:

Nothing is like Him…

Allah declares with this verse HIS being, HIS essence, HIS divine nature, HIS limitless greatness, HIS glory. So write in your heart and mind this principle, this foundation of faith, and believe in Allah’s prophet, and the message that he brought from the Divine Truth, and in Allah’s orders and justice. Furthermore, have faith in the true declaration of all the prophets known and unknown.

La ilaha illa Allah
There is but One God.

- by Shaykhul-Akbar, Ibn Arabi, What the Seekers Need

All Sufi and people of Truth (ahl e Haqq) are unanimous on the Tawhid (Oneness) of Allah which are:

Allah is One and Unique in It’s Being, in It’s Attribute of Perfection Allah is without a second, Allah has no partner, there is nothing comparable to Allah. Allah is One from the beginningless beginning to the endless end, In It’s own being there is none like It. Allah is free and pure from every loss or danger. All is dependent on Allah and Allah is independent of all.

Allah is before all, Allah is all Knowing, Allah is Living, Allah is Present from ever and will never be destroyed. Allah’s Being has no beginning and no end; Allah is Lord, Owner, Sustainer, Most Merciful and Compassionate. Allah Wills, Allah Do anything through Will, Allah is Knowledgable of all things, Allah is Creator, Allah is Provider of Sustenance, Allah is Hearer, Allah is Seeing, Allah is Victorious over all Things, Allah’s might is unequalled, Allah is the Greatest, the Most Venerable, Allah is most compassionate to servants, Allah is the Owner of Veneration, Maker and Reconstructor, Allah is the container of all qualities.

Allah has many Names describing Allah’s qualities by which Allah is called. In Allah’s Being and in Allah’s Attributes, there is none like Allah. There is no likeness in the creation to match Allah. Allah is present before time. There is none ancient than Allah, except Allah there is no other true Lord, Allah has no body, no form. Allah is neither man, nor any object, and is free from size or shape attribute. Allah neither moves nor remain still, neither increase nor decrease and Allah has no divisible parts. Allah is pure from any limbs like human beings. Allah is not attributable to face any direction, no direction is direction for Allah. Allah is free from dimension and time. Change of time is needed for creation and for things anew, but Allah is free from all such needs. Allah is free from all calamities. Neither slumber nor sleeps reach Allah. No time can change Allah. Allah is pure from taking assistance from anyone. No place or dimension can encompass Allah but Allah encompasses all place and all dimensions. Time dimension applies only to creation, but not to Allah. Allah is free from past, present or future. No-thing can cover or hide Allah. Allah is manifest and at the same time beyond vision. Allah is so purely subtle and so grandly manifest, vision of the physical reality can not grasp Allah.

Allah is free from part and divisions. Allah’s Being, Attribute and Work does not depend on anyone and none can claim that Allah is Lord only when creation worship or acknowledge Allah or Allah is Provider (ar Razzaq) only when Allah provides. Allah is Lord even before worship is made and Allah is Provider even before provision is given. Allah is free from consulting anyone, Allah does what Allah Wills. No Work of Allah can be compared with the work of creation.

Human conceptions fall short of reaching the total reality of Allah yet Allah is nearer to Allah’s servants. Allah is, as Allah was, and will be.

Huwa Awwalu wal Akhiru, waz Zahiru wal Batinu wa Huwa bi kulli Alim. Laisa kamislihi shaiyyun. As Samiul Baseer.

The First and the Last, from pre-Eternity to post-Eternity. Hidden and Manifest, Knower of all Sciences. There is nothing like HU. The Hearer, The Seer.

- From the writings of Hzrt Mawlana Shah Karamal Ali (r), Zakhiraye Karamat.

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear well, the blessed Lord our God, the Lord is One.'"  
- transmission of Isa ibn Maryam

A sufi was asked what is ma'arifa (gnosis of God)?
He replied, it is the knowledge, upon attaining which you become aware of the limits of your knowledge.
For that reason we may pray without ceasing with the blessed prayer of our Master (s), "Rabbi zidni ilman war zuqni fahman." 'O Lord advance me in knowledge and true understanding'  - for the knowledge of Allah is inexhaustible.

God alone is God.
The totality of Godhead is beyond comprehension.
God alone is God.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hafiz: That Sweet Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the authorities.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to

Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
this world is
dying to

~ Hafiz, Ladinsky ~
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mother Mary in Sufism and Maryamiyya Sufi Tariqa

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In Praise of the Feminine Face of the Absolute Divine Beauty

Grant us union with Her always

Has the light of the sun appeared from the world of the Unseen,
or have the veils of Layla been lifted from Her essence?

Yes. The longing of Layla for Her beloved friend has grown
until She has revealed Her love,

So that he has become a captive of Her ardent desire and the
longing which are Her goblets called out to him.

She did not leave until She had given him a drink from Her
goblet. There is no blame. Drink! for the wine is Her speech.

And She is naught but the presence of Truth (hadratul-haqq), alone, who
manifests Herself through forms whose every light varies.

She has manifested the unique beauty of the form design in the
depth of Her being. Look at the attributes of the Beloved manifested in you.

By Allah none have attained complete bliss except the one who
becomes a humble slave and seeks Her out.

And thus, She immersed the ugliness of his nature in the beauty
of Hers, and lights shone from him, their rays appearing -

So that he withdrew from the sensory which was a barrier and
embraced a meaning from which it is unlawful to separate.

Therefore let your goal be to commit yourself, oh my brother,
and avoid otherness and Her gentle breeze will waft over
beloved ones from you.

You will open the hearing of the wayfarer's heart (fu'aadi min saalikin) because the
subtle knowledge of Her is Her proof.

Grant us union with Her always and cause us to withdraw from
every sensory existence.

- Songs of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, may Allah sanctify his Sirr

By Grace Alone

In the history of human race where every single day, every single year - thousands to millions of people are being born and every single day, every single year - thousands to millions of people are passing away from the world in an never ending pilgrimage - if we stop for a moment and think about those rare human beings who managed to become immortal by virtue of their chosen place in human history, it comes to clash with our ordinary sense. This is even more so because many of these rare human beings whom as collective human mind we still remember after millennium, often time were people who used to veil themselves (they didn't hire expensive PR firm, they didn't have their interviews recorded and aired all over the world on CNN, they didn't have billion dollar media campaign for them) but they were people of utter simplicity, people of grand solitude, people who were wanderer, people who didn't have any permanent place of living, who didn't live and die in a world of media and communication, but in their time information and knowledge used to move at a very slow pace. Under such unusual context when we find ourselves inheriting memories of these extra-ordinary individuals who are mentioned by their name, who's simple acts are still remembered, who's unassuming words are still echoed, who are revered across many traditions, this phenomenon alone, even from very secular, logical perspective tells us that these people were no ordinary human beings; and from spiritual perspective they were without doubt are those who received special grace.

Immortality (al Hayy) is a Divine attribute and Allah bestows it in proportion to those who are worthy of it by virtue of their ikhlas (sincerity), purity of heart and lived actions. Those rare human beings who has become unfading remembrance for the rest of us are only so because they received their share of al-Hayyic divine quality, for the world is infinite manifestation and reflections of Divine attributes. 

Among such pure and rare human beings, who walked upon this earth for a short period with exclusive devotion to God, who lived very privately and more significantly - was a woman who grew up in a deeply patriarchal society - yet who's memory and remembrance is sanctified by the grace - Sayyidatna Maryam, the Noble Mother Mary is that rare face.

And [mention] the one who guarded her purity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit and made her (Maryam) and her son a sign to the worlds. - Surah of the Prophets, The Quran 21-91

Chosen above all women of creation

O Maryam! Verily, Allah has chosen you, sanctified you and chosen you above all the women of creation.
- The Quran 3:42

So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance. He made her becomecomplete in a good manner and put her under the care of Zachariya.Every time he entered al-Mihrab to visit her, he found her supplied with sustenance.

He said: 'O Maryam! From where have you got this?'

She said: 'This is from Allah. Verily, Allah provides sustenance who He wills, without limit.'
- The Quran 3:37

"O Fatimah! You are the highest of the women of the people of Paradise, excepting only the Virgin Mary, daughter of Imran." - Saying of Prophet Muhammad (s) addressing his beloved daughter Fatimah

In Islam, Mother Mary is known by her exalted titles such as The Virgin, The Purified, The Exalted, Mother of Jesus (upon him be perfect peace), Keeper of Chastity, Mystic, Female Exemplar, Maternal Heroine, Queen of the Saints.

So great was the Prophet's own respect for Sayyidatna Maryam that upon returning in conquest to Mecca, he ordered that all of the images and imaginary idols of the Ka'bah be destroyed, excepting only two icons: one of an old man, said to be Abraham (a), and another of the Virgin and Child, which he protected with his own hands. Being the successor of Christ's mission in the world, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be Allah's peace, used to say, "none of you are more nearer to Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, the son of Mary) than I am" and he would always speak with honor whenever mentions of Sayyidatna Maryam was made. Jesus was always referred without exception as "Isa ibn Maryam", connecting him with his venerable mother, Mary.

Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad and the birth of Maryami Sufi Order

There is a Sufi Branch which finds itself under the grand Shadhili Sufi Order and received it's inspiration from Sayyidatna Maryam as she appeared to the representative of this Sufi Order, Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad.

Sidi Isa Nur was mostly known by his Swiss-German name Frithjof Schuon (June 18, 1907 – May 5, 1998) was a philosopher, metaphysician and author of numerous books on religion and spirituality. Full name of this Sufi Master was Shaykh ‘Îsâ Nûr al-Dîn Ahmad al-Shâdhilî al-‘Alawî al-Maryamî. It is now widely known that Frithjof Schuon, recognized throughout the second half of the twentieth century as one of the world’s most prolific and authoritative writers on religion and spirituality and as its most important expositor of the Sophia Perennis. It has also become public knowledge that the tarîqah or spiritual order which Schuon founded and guided, a branch of the Shâdhilîyyah lineage, is of a Marian provenance, a fact indicated by the last of his Islamic names. Known as the Tarîqah Maryamîyyah, this order has been blessed with the celestial patronage of the Virgin Mary, Sayyidatnâ Maryam in Islam - a patronage, Schuon has explained, which was bestowed freely by Heaven, and not by virtue of any initiative or intention of his own. “The coming of Sayyidatnâ Maryam did not depend upon my own will,” he writes, “but upon the will of Heaven; it was a totally unexpected and unimaginable gift.”

Maryam is identifiable with esoteric Truth (Haqiqah) inasmuch as she is a secret Revelation.
- Frithjof Schuon

The veridical vision of Sayyidatna Maryam

Schuon has written that his spiritual relationship with the Virgin actually began in his childhood. As a lad of thirteen, he had composed a short poem in honor of the Divine Femininity, which he would later describe as a “presentiment” of certain graces to come:

“Doth thy velvet arm bear me aloft to thee?
Doth thy mantle silently descend upon me?
Devoutly do I contemplate thy holy all;
I dissolve in the fragrance of thy soul.
To my heart dost thou softly open a door;
a quiet faith doth ripple gently down.”

Having been a Protestant as a very young boy, he soon thereafter became a Roman Catholic, and he recalls in his memoirs that he “met Mary in two ways” in this new ambience: first through a “large and beautiful image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the famous Byzantine icon on a gold background,” which hung in the monastery chapel where he attended Mass; and second through reciting the Rosary, in which he “spoke to Mary, which I had never done before.”

When in his twenties he later entered Islam, this practice was of course abandoned, and his spiritual attention became otherwise occupied for many years - though even then there were hints as to the continuing benediction of Sayyidatnâ Maryam. He recalls a time, for example, while invoking the two Divine Attributes of Allah: the Divine Names: Rahman and Rahim, Frithjof Schuon had an intense experience of Sayyidatna Maryam which he later described:
"I invoked the two Names quite independently of any doctrinal perspective and thinking only of God. Then all at once I felt a powerful Presence: in it there was golden warmth, beauty, love, mercy and I - who had not in the least been thinking of the Holy Virgin - suddenly knew that it was she. For a long while this state of grace continued, and I was as if inebriated from it."

This experience seems to have been only a foreshadowing of something greater to come, however, for in March of 1965, at a time when he was faced with particular difficulties and sufferings, Mary came to him, he writes, in a yet more profound and decisive way. He was on his way to Morocco, and the ship had called at Port-Vendres along the French coast. Alone in his cabin, gazing into a bouquet of flowers, "I sought to explain to myself certain difficulties," and "to imagine, with regard to Paradise, what is imaginable; it was as if I were in a waking dream; in my consciousness nothing remained save of Paradise. Then all at once," he continues, "the Divine Mercy overwhelmed me in a special manner; it approached me inwardly in a feminine form which I can not describe, but which I knew to be the Holy Virgin; I could not think otherwise.

Later during the trip, when he was staying in the Moroccan city of Tetuan, "the undreamt-of grace came to me anew," once again in the form of an inner vision - "the heavenly consolation, streaming forth from the primordial femininity" - and as with all truly celestial experiences, it left him feeling, "a new man," forever changed ... "I was as if marked by Heaven. It was though I lived in a special protective aura belonging already to Heaven, which at the same time carried with it an obligation."

He would later describe these moments as affored him "a mystical contact" with Mary and as signs of his "heavenly adoptation by her" - an adoptation and protection, he affirmed through which the Virgin had become the patroness of his disciples as well. Hence the name of his Sufi order, Tariqa Maryamiyyah.

If someone asks in good faith how he could have come to know what he taught, the answer in part is that he was instructed by the Blessed Virgin herself, for these can be little doubt that had it not been for these miraculous encounters, his understanding of the Divine Femininity would have been less intimate and his Mariology correspondingly less profound.

Schuon was a metaphysician, after all, and not a mystic, and it is therefore characteristic of him to insist that "instead of being governed by phenomena and following inspirations," one should "submit to principles and accomplish actions." For this reason, he would have been quick to discourage us from supposing that the truth of his Marian doctrine, or indeed any doctrine, depends exclusively upon certain spiritual states or gifts. For "what counts in the eyes of God," he goes on to warn, "is not what we experience, but what we do. Doubtless
we may feel graces, but we may not base ourselves upon them. God will not ask us what we have experienced, but He will ask us what we have done."

Beautiful Martin Lings
Sidi Martin Lings, student of Sidi Schuon
Martin Lings (Sidi Abu Bark Siraj ad Din) recounted his experience of being led to the Tariqa (as shared in Firthjof Schuon: An Autobiographical Approach), in the late 1930s, in response to his prayers to the Virgin, though it was only years later that he came to realize what the connection had been all along. He and other disciples in Europe had asked Schuon to add a further name to that of his own shaykh, the Shaykh al-Alawi, in order to distinguish their spiritual community from 'Alawiyyah Sufis in North Africa. "To our surprise (Schuon) said, "Our Tariqah is Maryamiyyah," that is, of Mary, and he told us that more than once she had made to clear to him that she had chose us for herself, and that was our protective patroness. He went so far as to say: 'It is not we who have chosen her; it is she who has chose us.' And so, after all, my Ave Maria, repeated such a multitude of times, had not been out of line with my final orientation""

Following Schuon's visions of Mary in 1965, Schuon's paintings were largely given over to the Virgin Mother:

"Since that experience I could scarcely paint anything other than the Holy Virgin... I painted her, not as she is portrayed in Christian religious art, but as I had inwardly experienced hear, that is as virginal Mother or as motherly Virgin, and beyond all the theological forms, as the embodiment of the Divine Mercy and at the same time of Religio Perennis, somehow uniting in her person Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, in conformity with my own nature my pictures of Mary there is something of the golden, earth-remove barakah..."

Paintings by Sidi Frithjof Schuon

The "validity" of the Maryamiyya Sufi Tariqa

In a letter in 1981 Sidi Schuon wrote, "There are Sufis who claim a mystical connection with a particular Prophet: they are Ibrâhîmî, Mûsâwî, Îsâwî  (that is, of Abraham, of Moses, of Jesus) as may be seen from the Fusûs al Hikam of Ibn ‘Arabi. It is thus our Tarîqah is Maryamî - the Shaykh Al-‘Alawî having been unquestionably Îsâwî”.

Author and researcher Mark Sedgwick, (author of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) writes in his blog: Traditionalists on the validity of Maryamiyya Sufi Order:

From time to time, the question comes up of how to understand the position of the Maryamiyya in terms of the classifications generally used by Sufis, and of whether the Maryamiyya is a “valid” tariqa in mainstream Sufi terms. Like most tariqas, the Maryamiyya can be placed in three ways:

1. In organizational terms, it is an independent branch of the Alawiyya, which is itself an independent branch of the Darqawiyya, which is itself an independent branch of the Shadhiliyya. It is independent in the sense that it operates independently of the tariqa from which it derives, and in the sense that its practice, prayers, and teachings differ in certain respects from those of the tariqa from which it derives. The same is true of the Darqawiyya and of most other tariqas in existence today.

2. In personal terms, Frithjof Schuon is a link in a chain (silsila) passing through Ahmad al-Alawi, Muhammad al-Arabi al-Darqawi, Abu’l-Hasan al-Shadhili, and then through both Ali ibn Abi Talib and Abu Bakr to the Prophet Muhammad, and thence to God. The question of whether or not (or how) Schuon was authorized as a muqaddam by al-Alawi has no bearing or impact on this.

3. In personal and organizational terms, the foundation of the Maryamiyya as a distinct tariqa seems to result from the authorization said to have been given to Schuon in a vision by the Virgin Mary, just as the foundation of the Alawiyya as a distinct tariqa results from the authorization said to have been given to al-Alawi in a vision by Ali ibn Abi Talib. While such forms of authorization are not universal, they are very common. 

In Sufi terms, then, the Maryamiyya is probably “valid” to the extent that Schuon’s vision of the Virgin Mary in 1965 was “valid.” (comment by Mark Sedgwick)

Mother Mary in Quran: from Schuon's perspective and Marian Gnosis

Schuon was deeply interested in the implications of Marian gnosis and method which can be discovered in two Quanic passages in particular. The first, the verse of the Mihrab or Prayer niche, speaks of the virgin's presence in the Temple, where she has been brought as a child of three, and where she lived until she was taken under the care of Joseph - Zachariah.

Her Lord accepted her with full acceptance and vouchsafed to her a goodly completion; and made Zachariah her guardian. Whenever Zachariah went into the sanctuary (Mihrab) where she was, he found that she had food. He said: O Mary! Whence cometh unto thee this food? She answered: It is from Allah. Verily Allah provideth sustenance beyond all reckoning for those whom He will (Surah 3:37).

It is the belief of Islam, as it is of Christianity, that the Blessed Virgin was miraculously sustained during these years by celestial food which was regularly brought to her by the angels.

The Schuonian Mariology tells us that not only does her life in the Temple help to instruct us as to the virgin's own stature in the Divine economy; it provides the spiritual pilgrim with a powerfully attractive model of what his own state of life should be like.

On the other hand, writes Suchon, since "Mihrab is equivalent to the Holy of Holies of the Temple", it follows that "at the time of the presence of the Virgin in the temple, she was the high priest," and since esoterically "the Mihrab is the heart", she herself was "the Holy of Holies."

Recalling the East which she faced (Surah 19:16) as she performed her priestly functions, Schuon adds, "It is noteworthy that the Virgin is Stella Matutina, an allusion to the East, which in our symbolism denotes fervor. Aside from this particular meaning, the East represent the coming of light, and it is thus the Christian tradition interprets the Marian title, 'Morning Star'; now fervor derives from light just as in principle light and heat go together.Mary's seclusion becomes in turn an example for others, for indeed Maryam is the inner soul which invokes and which by that fact, is withdrawn from the world.

According to certain Quanic commentators on the phrase "she placed a veil between her and her people" (19:17), the sanctuary of the Temple was separated from the outer court by a series of veils, seven in number, which "become seven doors," Schuon writes, "which Zachariah had to open with a key each time he visited Mary in the Temple.

What this veiling signifies for the spiritual traveler is that "the Holy Virgin represents the khalwah or spiritual retreat." 

As for the food with which Mary was nourished during  her time of retreat, Schuon teaches that what it refers to finally is God Himself, whose Names she invoked without ceasing. "Sayyidatna Maryam was nourished in the Temple (the Mihrab) by celestial foods."

Schuon choose to emphasize the link with the sacrament of the Name and the method of Dhikr or Invocation. "One can say that the supreme Name is at once Food and Drink; it is the Divine Fruit which combines all the gifts which make us live." To say that the Holy Virgin received diverse fruits means that she lived by Divine Names, according to the double relationship of Ambrosia and Nectar.

According to Sidi Schuon, Blessed Virgin and the Prophet of Islam occupy in the formal economies of the two traditions. "The function of the Prophet is analogous and symbolically even identical to that of the Virgin Mary, who was likewise the 'ground' for the reception of the Word." Mary, fecundated by the Holy Ghost, is Co-Redemptresss and Queen of Heaven, while the Prophet Muhammad, inspired by the same Paracletic Spirit, is Messenger of Mercy (Rasul ar-Rahmah) and 'Lord of the Two Existences (Sayyid al-Kawnayn), this world and the next.

The Virgin is immaculate and from the merely physical standpoint, 'virgin', while the Prophet, like the Apostles, is 'illiterate' (ummmi), that is to say, pure from the taint of human knowledge or knowledge humanly acquired.

Allahumma salli ala Sayyidatna Maryam
Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad.

O Allah! please send your divine peace upon our Noble Lady Maryam,
O Allah! please send your divine peace upon our Noble Master Muhammad.

Maryam holds the stature of Prophetess. Maryam is mentioned together with other Messengers in the Surah 'The Prophets (al-Anbiya)", furthermore, her story is related with care and praise, which would be inconceivable for an ordinary saint (waliyah), but which accords perfecltly with what the Prophet himself said in describing her as the Queen of the women saints in the Paradsise. And according to Sidi Schuon, "all this would provide, if proof were necessary, the supereminent rank of Maryam, that is to say her quality of Prophetess (Nabiyah).

Schuon himself actually went to some lengths in helping Christians to understand the deeper significance of traditional Marian teachings, and in highlighting their consistency with his own expositions. The Virgin is clearly one of those mysteries - perhaps indeed the most important of all - which the (Christian) Church has for so long been so good at protecting that Christians seem themselves nearly to have forgotten its deepest significance.

Holy virgin is "exteriorization with a view to interiorization", visibleness of the Invisible, she is the merciful Inward in the outward, and hence the merciful way to the Inward, she is prayer become man, and thus also Paradise become man.

“If Eve, issued from Adam, symbolizes the fall, the Holy Virgin, from whom Christ issued, symbolizes victory over the serpent," declares Sidi Schuon.

James S. Cutsinger writes in his article, Colorless Light and Pure Air: The Virgin in the Thought of Frithjof Schuon: Schuon sought to express his Marian doctrine in terms borrowed from the scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions and in light of their orthodox commentaries. He was after all a traditionalist, who always insisted that an operative spirituality must be grounded in one of the great revelations bestowed by Heaven, and as one who had lived in the two worlds of Christianity and Islam, his continual fascination with what the Bible and the Koran have to say about Mary is not unexpected. But he was at the same time a metaphysician and master of gnosis, whose message was that of pure esoterism, and it also makes perfect sense that his perception of the Virgin’s presence and meaning would not have been confined to those worlds.

Unlike the exoteric authorities of a given religion, whose perspectives are determined by certain confessional loyalties - and in fact unlike even the masters of what he sometimes called “average Sufism”- Schuon was utterly free in his fidelity to the “nature of things,” to the fitrah or primordial norm, and within the inward space of that freedom he realized that the Virgin’s intrinsic reality transcends the doctrinal boundaries of the traditions which honor her, manifesting something that is truly universal and Divine. It was for this reason that he called himself Maryamî, and it is in this light that one may understand the Marian character of the spiritual order he founded. It is indeed “our insistence upon the nature of things,” he writes, “that explains and justifies our connection with Sayyidatnâ Maryam; it is because our perspective is a priori metaphysical, esoteric, primordial, and universal that our Tarîqah has the right to be named Tarîqah Maryamîyah, in perfect accordance with the teachings of Sufic tradition.”

It is possible to glimpse at least something of the universal scope and plenitude of the Blessed Virgin by considering first the implications of a title accorded her in Islamic mysticism. As we have just noted, there is good reason - even on exoteric grounds - for calling Mary a Prophetess, but among certain Sufis a further “paracletic” step is sometimes taken in which she is referred to as the “Mother of Prophecy and of all the Prophets,” a phrase to which Schuon returns a number of times in his writings. What this formulation helps to make clear, he explains, is a  dimension of the Marian reality which might not otherwise have been discerned at the level of scriptural exegesis - namely, that “the message of the Blessed Virgin,” understood in its essence, “contains all the prophetic forms possible in their universal and primordial indifferentiation.” On the one hand, of course, her message has to do with her Son; theologians have pointed out that the only time she speaks publicly in the Gospel is on the occasion of the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, when, referring to Jesus, she tells the servants, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).

Texture of Mary by Katherine Skaggs (2004). credit
But in the Schuonian perspective, He - the Son - must be understood as applying not simply to “Jesus as founder of a religion,” but to the Divine Logos or Word, which was incarnate in Him, and hence not to “such and such a Rasûl, but the Rasûl as such.” As the Mother of that supra-temporal Word, Mary is thus the “matrix of all the sacred forms,” a truth expressed, “according to a symbolism common to Christianity and Islam,”

On an initial and most obvious level, this “Marian universality” can be seen in the fact that the Virgin serves as a providential link between the western or Semitic traditions. “Precisely because, in the world of the Semitic monotheists, Maryam is the only feminization of the Divine,” Schuon writes - “the only avataric Shakti of Vishnu, in Hindu terms”- “she had to appear in all three monotheistic religions at once.” For she was indeed “unique and incomparable both in Judaism, by her concrete personality as Prophetess - whether understood or not - and in Christianity, by her function as Co-Redemptress,” and she was therefore “ipso facto unique and incomparable in Islam and was ‘at home’ in it, like all the Semitic prophets up to and including Christ.”

Divine Feminine: from the writings of Shaykh Isa Nur al-Din

The Virgin’s majesty, the Scriptures pass over in silence;
They seek only to praise the greatness of her Son.
Mary said: “They have no wine”-
Thus spoke the Holy Ghost, a ray from Above

The Spirit, it is said, entered her body;
They became One. And it is wonderful:
Mary is the Mother of the whole Universe –
The divine Ray, which was in the beginning.

Vacare Deo: she is luminous and pure,
And then filled with God’s Presence.
In her, the perfection of snow
Unites with sunlike bliss.

The Holy Virgin is remembrance of God;
Therefore the angels says: “Hail, full of grace.”
The Name of God, which fills our hearts with joy:
This the wine she wanted to bestow;

And not her words alone, which you know-
But also her beauty’s radiant sacrament.

- Maria, Poetry of Frithjof Schuon

Woman, synthesizing in her substance virgin nature, the sanctuary, and spiritual company, is for man what is most lovable, in a certain respect she represents the projection of merciful Inwardness in barren outwardness, and in this regard she assumes a sacramental or quasi-divine function. The alchemical role and the dissolving power of women's beauty which triggers the liquification of the hardened heart. Metaphysically, femininity is kind of reverberation of the "unlimitedness, virginal mystery, and maternal mercy" of the Divine Feminine Principle Itself.

- From Colorless Light and Pure Air: The Virgin in the Thought of Frithjof Schuon by C. Singer

A blessing invocation for Sayyidatna Maryam

As sacred practice, you may invoke the following Quranic verses in original form as an invocation of blessing with attention to the heart, which in turn should be directed towards Sayyidatna Maryam. It is an Islamic Ave Maria, so to speak for those who are familiar with it, glorifying the status of the Blessed Mother.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

inna Allaha istafaki 
wa tahharaki was-tafaki 
'ala nisa-i al 'alameen.

O Maryam!
surely Allah has chosen you
and purified you and chosen you
above all the women of the worlds.
- Quran 3:42

Repeat this for 3 or 7 or 19 times, following by the short invocation of blessing towards the Seal of Prophet for 3 times:

Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad Mustafa.

O Allah, please send your peace upon our noble master Muhammad, the chosen one.

# References:
* The Wisdom of the Virgin by Frithjof Schuon
* Ye shall know the truth: Christianity and the perennial philosophy by Mateus Soares de Azevedo
* Frithjof Schuon’s life and work
* Books by Fritjof Schuon via Google Books
* Fasting Devotion of Christ and Mother Mary
* Esoteric Inner Meaning of Virgin Mary | Receptive Soul in Loving Surrender

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Divine Feminine in Islam and Fatima | part 2

Everything that comes into life has two sides, a masculine and feminine quality, even love. The masculine side of love is “I love you.” Longing is the feminine side of love: “I am waiting for you. I am longing for you.” Longing is the cup waiting to be filled.

The soul is feminine before God, waiting in a state of surrender for the Beloved to come. The sixteenth-century Indian princess and poet Mirabai knew this mystical truth. Mirabai was devoted to Krishna, her “Dark Lord,” and once, when she was wandering in some woodlands sacred to Krishna, a famous theologian and ascetic named Jiv Gosvami denied her access to one of her Dark Lord’s temples because she was a woman. Mirabai shamed him with the words: “Are not all souls female before God?” Jiv Gosvami bowed his head and led her into the temple.

The lover waits for her Beloved. And when He comes to us, in those moments of meeting and merging that are so intimate that one can hardly speak of them, the lover is feminine, pierced, penetrated by the tremendous bliss of His love. - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Love is a Fire: The Sufi's Mystical Journey Home

The wife of Adam was feminine,
but the first soul from which Adam was born was also feminine.  
- Toshihiko Izutsu

The Archetype of Divine Feminine became effulgent and manifest more perfectly than most other human beings at certain historical point in human history. According to the Seal of Prophet, four are the brightest through four Radiant Faces, that of Asiya (Israelite wife of Pharaoh who cared for Moses at his infancy), Mary (Venerable mother of Jesus Christ), Khadija (wife of Muhammad and mother of the faithful) and Fatimah (beloved daughter of the Seal of Prophet), may Allah bless them all.

Prophet Muhammad, upon him be abundant peace and blessings, his holy blood lineage continued not by any son but only with his daughter, who was Fatimah. According to people of the house (ahlul bayat) the true line of the Imams, who act as preserver and transmiter of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, and comes from Fatimah.

Fatimah was born in the holy city of Medinah on 20 Jamadi Ath-Thaniah. Fatimah’s mother was Khadija-tol Kobra, the first wife of the Prophet, who was tremendously helpful in nurturing, protecting and helping Venerable Muhammad in realizing his vision and mission. It was Khadija who comforted her from the beginning days of mind shattering revelatory experiences that came upon Muhammad and even when Muhammad was in shock and disbelief about his own spiritual experiences, it was Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, who reassured Muhammad that such experience can only be coming from the Source of grace. In fact it was Khadija who first whole-heartedly believed in the mission of Muhammad and known as the first of believers, thus mother of Fatimah holds a special position in Islamic faith tradition. Khadija supported Muhammad until her last breath and Muhammad was so in love with this lady who was at least 12 or 15 years older than him, that he never really recovered from the loss of her loving support.

Fatimah was from this venerable lady Khadija and physically Fatimah corresponded the most with her Father. Because of her special beingness of personality and beyond, Fatimah is considered by many Muslims as divine in origin and several variations of a major hadith describe how she was conceived on the night of Mi’raj (ascension).

I heard the Apostle of Allah say, 'I am a tree, Fatimah is its trunk and Ali is its pollen. Hassan and Hussein are its fruits, and our followers are its leaves. The roots of the tree are in the Garden of Eden, and its trunk, fruits and leaves are in Paradise.' - Sacred tradition of Islam on the authority of 'Abdu 'r-Rahman ibn 'Awf'

Fatimah tul Zehra (Fatimah the Radiant, Fatimah the Brightest Star, Fatimah-Star of Venus, Fatimah-The Evening Star), the daughter of the Prophet, is the secret in Sufism. She is the Hujjat of ‘Ali. In other words, she establishes the esoteric sense of his knowledge and guides those who attain to it. Through her perfume, we breathe paradise. Though she was his daughter, the Prophet Muhammad called her Um Abi’ha (mother of her father). While Fatimah Zehra was Muhammad’s daughter, the Rasulallah (Prophet of God – Muhammad) understood that his gnosis was bestowed upon him from the Divine Feminine.

During his life time the Prophet showed special honor and favor to his daughter. Whenever Fatimah would go to the house of Muhammad, he would stand up out of respect for her and honour her by giving her a special place to seat herself in his house. He regarded her as a sort of primordial woman, a symbol of divine womanhood giving her many holy names, such as: Siddiqah; The Honest, The Righteous; Al-Batool, Pure Virgin; Al-Mubarakah, The Blessed One; .Al-Tahirah, The Virtuous, The Pure, Al-Zakiyah ;The Chaste, The Unblemished; Al-Radhiatul Mardhiah, She who is gratified and who shall be satisfied; Al-Muhaddathah, A person other than a Prophet, that the angels speak to; Al-Zahra, The Splendid; Al-Zahirah, The Luminous. Prophet Muhammad used to say "Allah, The Most High; is pleased when Fatimah is pleased. He is angered; whenever Fatimah is angered!"

Shia school of thought revere the person of Fatimah both as Muhammad's daughter and specially so for being mother of the line of inspired imams who embodied the divine truth for their generation. As such, Fatimah is associated with Sophia, the divine wisdom, which gives birth to all knowledge of God. She has thus become another symbolic equivalent of the Great Mother.

Fatima is the Sād, the letter which symbolizes the pre-eternal purity of the elect

On the face of the earth there is no one more beautiful than You
Wherever I go I wear your image in my heart
Whenever I fall in a despondent mood I remember your image
And my spirit rises a thousand fold
Your advent is the blossom time of the Universe
O Mother you have showered your choicest blessings upon me
Also remember me on the Day of Judgement
I don’t know if I will go to heaven or hell
But wherever I go, please always abide in me.

~ A Sufi Ode to the Divine Mother ~

"In the Presence of the Lord, the meaning (al-murad) of the Sabbath is Fatima the Resplendent (al-fâtima al-zahra'), because She is the Day of the Book (yawm al-kitâb). Verily the Godhead hath caused all created things (kullu-shay') to appear through Her..." - Essence of the Seven Letters, Tafsîr Sûrat’ul-Baqara (Comm. the Surah of the Cow)

Going more into esoteric veneration, the greeting by which she is addressed in special prayer is peculiar enough: “Welcome art thou, O Mother of your Father.” The Arabic form (umm abiha) is an old tribal greeting which was used when the son bore the name of the father of his mother. Here the use of the formula signifies that it is from her that the second divine principle emanates, the mīm, which manifested in her father in order to be manifest anew in her sons. In a similar vein of thought, she appears as the “source of the sun” (the red point on the western sky), from whence the sickle of the moon is born at the beginning of each month, the lunar crescent which, for the Shī’ites, symbolizes the “Imāmat.”

In a Sunni text of ‘Abul Fadl Ahmadi (942 of Hedjra), it is written that ‘Ali must be regarded as the true Tuba-tree of Paradise, for he serves as the veil through which the light of Fatima manifests itself. The proof that this Shī’ite gnostic cultus of Fatima is not based on her human fertility but rather on her beneficent grace is demonstrated by the secret name that she carries after the initiation: instead of her female name, Fatima, she is known only by the name Fatir. But Fatir is a masculine divine epithet. It already features in the Koran, where it signifies “Creator,” or more precisely, “he who lets appear.” What she will let appear, however, is the human form in which, at certain temporal intervals, the divine manifests its representatives (imams) in order to test humankind, to demand from it time and again the highest oath of allegiance.

Fatir [creatrix], the mysterious name of Fatima, was probably chosen because the numerical value of the letters which form the name produce the same total as the numerical value of the name of Mary (Maryam). For these gnostic circles there is a form of reappearance (the reincarnation of one identical, unchanging archetype from one cycle to the next). Thus, Fatima is also seen among esoteric circle a reoccurrence of Maryam principal.

“On the Day of Judgment, a caller will call out, ‘lower your gaze until Fatima has passed.” – Saying of the Prophet, ref. Kenz Al-Omal

The Shī’ite traditions Fatima is also depicted as someone who is holding a sword in her hand and is also named El Zahrā, “the brilliant/effulgent,” has an essential eschatological role to play - she will restore justice through irreconcilable vengeance. She will appear at the final judgment with flowing hair to demand justice for the murder of her children; she will appear against those responsible for the premature delivery of her last son, Mohsin, whose blood drenched body she carries in her arms; she will appear against those who poisoned her eldest son Hassan and slew her second son Hossein in Karbala. In this image, then, she is essentially the embodiment of divine retribution, just as she was the embodiment of selectivity at the beginning of time; for those who love her and her successors, who are already thereby assured of paradise. via Gnostic Fatima

A Modern Day Dream of Initiation by Fatimah

Years before on the night of my Sufi initiation, I had dreamed of Fatima who initiated me in the Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginal World.

I dreamed I had entered the sacred precincts of the Ka'aba, in Mecca, on a Night of the Full Moon and there was no one there but me. The doors of the Ka'aba suddenly opened up and a female voice bade me to enter the inner sanctum of the Ka'aba. I entered the Ka'aba and there seated dressed in emerald green and wearing a white headdress, with the words Al-Hayy, translated as “the Living” written in Arabic on the headdress, was Fatima.

She bade me to sit in front of Her and then commanded me to open my mouth. Laying next to Her was the double-edged sword of 'Ali, Zu'l-Fiqar. I opened my mouth and She grabbed my tongue and pierced it with Zu'l-Fiqar. Instead of pain, however, I felt ecstasy and was transported in the next scene of the dream to a dazzling desert landscape whose sands consisted of flakes of pure lustrous gold. I stood in this desert watching the Sun rise and as the Sun rose Fatima's face shone from within it fully unveiled. The higher this Imaginal Sun rose to its meridian, the more it formed itself into various shapes and forms, until it finally became the World Tree, the Tree of Life, or the Tree of Reality as I call it, whose roots reached into every expanse of Heaven and earth. I woke up! It was such a vivid dream I can never forget it!

- Wahid Azal, Fatimiyya Sufi Order

Prophet’s transmission on Fatimah

"Say O Muhammad: 'I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near kin'
- The Quran 42: 23

According to Islamic scholarship and also that of the people of Path (fuqara), the love of the Prophet and those whom he loved, namely his near ones among his holy family is an obligation and a sure pathway to achieve the love of God. In this regard, the love for Fatimah is divinely sanctified since she was the most loved one of the Prophet of Love.

The following are the sayings of Prophet Muhammad on her beloved daughter:

The most beloved of my family to me is Fatimah.
- Source: Al-Jami' al-Sagheer

Whoever hurts Fatima, hurts me, and whoever hurts me, hurts Allah, exalted be His Majesty!- Ibn Majah, Sunan

I never saw a man more beloved of the Apostle of Allah than 'Ali, or a woman more dear to him than Fatimah. - on the authority of Aishah

The Commander of the Faithful said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah, 'Who is more beloved to you, Fatima or I?' He answered, 'Fatimah is more beloved to me, and you are dearer to me than she is.'" - Muslim

The Prophet having spread over Fatimah, Ali, Hassan and Hussein a khaybarite (a mantle made from the region of Khaybar) mantle and prayed saying: "O Allah, these are the People of my Household, remove all imperfections from them and keep them purified as is the right to keep them purified!"

The Mehdi is from my family, from the sons of Fatimah. - Al-Sawaiq Al-Muhariqa

Verily, God has weaned (fatama in Arabic) my daughter Fatimah and her children and those who love them from the Hellfire, and that is why she is named Fatima. - Kenz Al-Omal

The head of the women of Paradise is Fatimah.

If I were separated from the fruits of Paradise I would kiss Fatimah.

Fatimah is part of me, and whoever pleases her, pleases me. - Al-Sawaiq Al-Muhariqa

Prayer of Fatimah

Imam Hassan (AS) said, 'on the friday night I saw my mother (Fatima (as)) standing in her arch of prayer. She was continuously kneeling and performing prostration till the dawn broke. I would hear her pray for the faithful men and women, but she did not at all pray for herself. I said, 'Oh mother why did you not pray for yourself like you prayed for others?' so she replied, 'Oh my son, first thy neighbour and there after your own house.'

I testify that there is no deity (Lord) except the sole and matchless Allah. And the testification of the oneness of Allah is a word that Allah has declared sincerity (as) it's reality, and made the hearts the center of it's contact and union. And has made the specifications and research of the oneness of Allah's station obvious and evident in the light of meditation. The Allah Who can not be seen by the eyes and tongues are unable and baffled to describe His virtues and attributes. And the intelligence and apprehension of man is helpless and destitute from the imagination of his howness. 

Oh Allah! belittle me in my eyes and glorify and magnify Your station to me. And inspire me (about) Your obedience and the practice which may cause Your pleasure and the shunning and evading from things (matters) which are the cause of Your wrath, oh the Most Merciful of all!

# Further:
* Fatimah, Mary and the Divine Feminine in Islam
* Sayings of Fatema
* Women and Sufism: Camille Helminski
* Fatimiyya Sufi Order
* The Gnostic Cultus of Fatima in Shi'ite Islam
* The Centrality of the Divine Feminine in Sufism
* The Divine Mother
* Teachings on the Feminine & the World Soul
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Divine Feminine in Islam and Fatima | part 1


Born in a world of forms, pictures of "things" and appearances, mind of human being by default is always after 'form' whether its the form of the divine - crudely shaped in idols, or form of wealth and power. Even though human essence, which is his or her soul - is essentially formless, and the heart perceives the kingdom of attributes and qualities such as love, compassion, intuition which are also without form - yet unless man evolves towards spiritual kingdom, he is a prisoner in his primitives level of mind and therefore only in forms and pictures.

Shaykh Sidi Muhammad al Jamal, may Allah be pleased with him, always teach and remind his students, "DO NOT STOP at the pictures." Thats the condensed form of all the nasiha (advice) there can be for a beginner who start walking on the Path and continues to be the reminder even when a seeker is advancing in the Path. Here picture, form or veil are all points to the same phenomenon. The progress of the soul in it's striving towards the Lord is going beyond forms and pictures. 

Ya ayyuhal-insanu, 
innaka kadihun ila Rabbika, 
kadhan famulaqeeh.

O mankind,
indeed you are striving toward your Lord,
a (great) striving until you come to meet.
 - The Quran, Chapter of the Sundering

Ahadun. Oneness.

What does it mean to learn the knowledge of God's Unity?
To consume yourself in the presence of the One.
If you wish to shine like day,
burn up the night of self-existence.

Dissolve in the Being who is everything.
you grabbed hold of "I" and "we,"
and this dualism is your ruin.
- Jalaluddin Rumi, Kabir Helminski

The birth of monotheistic consciousness happened simultaneously in many places of the world at a cusp of a momentous era in human history. For sake of reference Abrahamic tradition of Monotheism descending through Patriarch Abraham, upon him be peace, is generally taken as a pointer to that Monotheistic consciousness rising. With this first revolution of transcending forms and moving towards formless adoration of the Divine began. For the human mind it was truly something astonishing, to move away from from to abstract transcendence, towards formless.

It was in Abrahamic tradition (pre-Judaic, as Abraham in truth was neither Jewish, nor Christian but Pure Monotheist, Hanif) and later Hebrew (Judaic) tradition discarded the grosser representation of forms by doing away with idol worship.

Islam, which is the final and natural successor of that Abrahamic lineage reaffirms the evolutionary movement and successfully establishment of formless-transcendence and beyond-form-immanence of the Divine. There are symbols or more accurately said, Signs of God (Ayatullah) which replaced forms in Islam. Thus instead of solidified, static form, Islamic consciousness revolves around Signs of God. Thus the Kaba (literally meaning cube) becomes the symbol of celestial abode of adoration, the salaat (established daily prayer) becomes the symbol of celestial adoration and so on and so forth.The muslim head covering or white turban becomes the visible symbol for aura or halo of human consciousness illuminated by divine consciousness.

In his research paper, Laurence Gailean writes: "Islam is aniconic. In other words, images, effigies, or idols of Allah are not allowed, although verbal depiction abounds. There was a question long debated in Islam: can we see Allah? The Prophet said in a hadith, “In Paradise the faithful will see Allah with the clarity with which you see the moon on the fourteenth night (the full moon).” Theologians debated what this could mean, but the Sufis have held that you can see Allah even in this world, through the “eye of the heart.” The famous Sufi martyr al-Hallaj said in a poem, “ra’aytu rabbi bi-‘ayni qalbi” (I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart)." We are clearly talking about a different reality that is not limited to physical and form-bound reality.

In Islam since Pure Divine Essence is realized as beyond any form or human imagination, form of God can not possibly be formalized in any shape or form - that is the position of all true gnostics. On the same token, for Muslims, the perfected exemplar who represented that very divine presence on earth, Muhammad Mustafa, himself also remains formless and shadowless presence. For Sufis, the batini (inward) face of a true Murshid remains unseen with zahiri (outward) eyes.

Now it is true that although ascent is in the direction of formless, man can not simply discard all forms all together in all times. But while we can be in the world of form in harmony, there is always possibility of movement towards a more perfected form. And according to Islamic cosmology, nothing in the heaven and earth is more perfected than Human form, who alone is titled, Khalifatullaah, God's representative.

To address the tendency of human mind to gravitate towards form, in Islam, specially in the understanding of Tasawwuf (Sufi Science), Divine presence is taught to be sought in the presence of an elevated human heart of a Murshid, a Sheikh, a Teacher of Truth, a Guide and divine face to be sought in the face of a True Human Being. The grace and blessing of a single living saintly soul and his face and his heart are millions time powerful than any icon or an idol made of clay even if thousands upon thousands may worship it.

Face of Divine Feminine in Islam.

Woman is the radiance of God;
Woman is the splendor of God;
She is not your beloved. She is the creator
- you could say that she is not created.
- Rumi

I quote here from a well written article titled, Islam and the Divine Feminine:

So often has Islam been portrayed as an exclusively masculine, patriarchal faith that many have never suspected the central importance of the Feminine in Islam and would be astonished to realize that it has been there from the beginning. Perhaps in part due to the metaphysical interiority of the Feminine, this aspect of Islam has lived a largely hidden existence - but it is no less vital for that. In recent years there has been much discussion and controversy over how to reshape Christianity to include the Feminine on the divine level, but in Islam that has never been an issue, for the feminine element in Islam has always been present, especially in Sufism because it was the Sufi who could understand the marriage between the spirit and body of Islam.

The Polarity of Divine Majesty and Beauty

On the highest level of the Divine Reality, Allah is perfectly One. The root of the duality between the masculine and feminine is found in the divine nature itself. Allah's Essence transcends all duality, all relationality, so it is beyond male or female. But even on the level of the Divine Nature, there are the roots of the masculine and the feminine. On the highest level, Allah is at once Absolute and Infinite. These two attributes are the supreme archetypes of the masculine and the feminine. "Masculine" and "feminine" are not simply equivalents of the human male and female, since all men and women have elements of both masculinity and femininity within them. That Allah is Absolute is the principle of masculinity, and that Allah is Infinite is the principle of femininity. Allah has revealed Himself in the Qur’ân in the names of rigor and mercy, known as the names of Majesty (jalâl) and Beauty (jamâl). The Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving are names of mercy or Beauty, while the Enumerator and the Just are names of rigor or Majesty. On the level of the names are the principles of the masculine and the feminine: the names of Majesty are the prototype of masculinity, while the names of Beauty are the prototype of femininity.

Vis-à-vis the world, Allah is Creator. This divine function is on the masculine side, representing the aspects of action force, movement, rigor; Allah as Lawgiver. But then there is the uncreating aspect of Allah. Allah is not exhausted by His creation of the world. Allah is more than the creator of the world: al-Khâliq, the Creator, is only one of the divine names. The Divine Reality did not completely participate in the act of creation. Allah is Infinite and the world is finite. The non-creating aspect of Allah corresponds to the Divine Femininity. It is this to which Sufi poetry so often refers in the feminine. The images of the beautiful Beloved are referring to the metacosmic aspect of the Divine, not the creating aspect.

That is why Ibn al-‘Arabî says Allah can be referred to as both huwa (He) and hiya (She).

Feminine Terms of Divinity

Some of the key terms associated with the Divine are in the feminine gender in Arabic. Three of them are essential to understand the feminine dimension in Islam. One of Allah's names is al-Hakîm, the Wise; Wisdom is hikmah. In Arabic to say, for example, "Wisdom is precious," you could repeat the feminine pronoun: al-hikmah hiya thamînah, literally "Wisdom, she is precious." This has resonance with the forgotten Christian mystical tradition, in which Wisdom is personified as a woman, the divine Sophia, associated with the Virgin Mary. The second term is rahmah (mercy), related to the most important name of God after Allâh: al-Rahmân, the All-Merciful, related to the word for 'womb', rahim, the source of life. The source of life is the Divine Mercy and the feminine aspect of it is very evident. The third, the most remarkable of all, is the word for the Divine Essence itself: al-Dhât, which is also feminine. In that the Divine Essence is Beyond-Being, unmanifest and transcending all qualities, it may be understood as Feminine. The renowned Sufi master Najm al-Din Kubra wrote of the Dhât as the "Mother of the divine attributes." According to a commentary on Ibn al-‘Arabî's Fusûs al-hikam, a hadith of Prophet Muhammad "gave priority to the true femininity that belongs to the Essence." Ibn al-‘Arabî himself wrote that "I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allah, keeping in view the Essence."

On this metaphysical plane, femininity corresponds to interiority and masculinity to manifestation. In the traditional Islamic city, beauty is interiorized. All human beings contain both elements within themselves, in their souls and bodies and psyches. The perfection of the human state, al-insân al-kâmil, means the perfection of both masculine and feminine qualities together, the prototype of both male and female. In Sufism, men and women perform exactly the same rites and worship, so the perfection of human spirituality is equally accessible to men and women

Allah as Mother

In contrast to Christianity, Islam has never depicted God as Father. Such a comparison is completely outside the boundaries of Islamic discourse. However, Muslims have always found it easy and natural to speak of the maternal qualities of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad was the first to use the example of mothers to illustrate Allah's mercy. After a battle, the Prophet and his Companions came upon a group of women and children. One woman had lost her child and was going around looking for him, her breasts flowing with milk. When she found her child, she joyfully put him to her breast and nursed him. The Prophet asked his Companions, "Do you think that this woman could throw her son in the fire?" They answered "No." He then said: "Allah is more merciful to His servants than this woman to her son." (From the hadith collection of al-Bukhari).

Another al-Bukhari hadith describes how during the Muslim conquest of Mecca a woman was running about in the hot sun, searching for her child. She found him, and clutched him to her breast, saying, "My son, my son!" The Prophet's Companions saw this, and wept. The Prophet was delighted to see their mercy, and said, "Do you wonder at this woman's mercy (rahmah) for her child? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, on the Day of Judgment, Allah shall show more rahmah toward His believing servant than this woman has shown to her son."

Jalal al-Din Rumi, in an amazing passage of the Masnavi (V:701)on the Return to Allah, made reference to the story of the infant Moses and addressed Allah directly as "Mother":

On Resurrection Day, the sun and moon are released from service:
and the eye beholds the Source of their radiance,
then it discerns the permanent possession from the loan,
and this passing caravan from the abiding home.
If for a while a wet nurse is needed,
Mother, return us to your breast.
I don't want a nurse; my Mother is more fair.
I am like Moses whose nurse and Mother were the same.

The Ka‘bah in Mecca, the very heart and pivot of the Islamic world, naturally is associated with feminine imagery, veiled in the black color of the Feminine Beyond-Being. Medieval writers and poets have often compared the holiest shrine of Islam to a veiled bride or a desired virgin, especially when on the pilgrimage. Their goal was to touch and kiss her beauty mark, the black stone.

The Prophet's Feminine Soul

Prophet Muhammad's soul had a deeply feminine nature within. When his Companions asked him whom he loved most in the whole world, he answered it was his wife, 'Â'ishah. They were surprised to hear him announce love for a woman, as this was a new concept to them; they had been thinking in terms of the manly camaraderie between warriors. So they asked him which man he loved most. He answered Abû Bakr, 'Â'ishah's father, a gentleman who was known for his sensitivity and feminine receptivity. These answers confounded the Companions who until then had been brought up on patriarchal values. The Prophet was introducing reverence for the Feminine to them for the first time.

He himself was extremely shy, except when he had to standup against injustice. Out of shyness he would turn his face away sometime, sometime he would hesitate to say something that would contradict gentleness and compassion.

Surah 109 ins the Qur'ân, al-Kawthar, gives an especially revealing look into the Prophet's feminine soul. It was revealed because his enemies had been taunting him that he had no sons, only daughters, while they had been given sons to perpetuate their patriarchal ways. Allah revealed this message of consolation to the Prophet: "We have given thee al-Kawthar ... surely the one who hates thee will be cut off (from progeny)." What is al-Kawthar? A sacred pool of life-giving water in Paradise-a profoundly feminine symbol. It represents a heavenly exaltation of the Feminine over patriarchal society. The name of Kawthar is derived from the same root as kathîr 'abundance', a quality of the supernal Infinite, the Divine Feminine.

The Primacy of the Feminine in Islam

Seen from the exterior, Islam may appear as a masculine-dominated faith. That is because its external aspects, such as the sacred law that governs the social order, are a manifestation of Allah's jalâl attributes. The hidden side of Islam, little known to the outside world, lives and breathes the values of interiority, the loving, forgiving, merciful Divine Presence that draws hearts closer, the infinite jamâl aspects of Allah's Beauty. The eternal primacy of Allah's feminine nature is established in a hadith qudsi: "My mercy precedes My wrath" (rahmatî sabaqat ghadabî).

Beyond all, the infinite eternal mystery of Allah's uncreated Essence is the Divine Feminine that is the ultimate spiritual Reality, calling to the souls who love Allah to come home and find perfect peace.

"Muslim women were enshrouded not because they were despised, but because they were so precious - so deeply treasured. Today, the sacred shrines of Mecca also are veiled and shrouded in black." (credit)

The great Shaykh Ibn Arabi maintained that women are the most potent icon of the sacred, because they inspires love in mean which must ultimately be directed to God, the only true object of love.

la Mahbooba illa Allah
la Mashooqa illa Allah
There is no real lover or beloved  but Allah.

Fatima as the Divine Feminine Face of Islam

"The Divine Feminine has always been present in Islam. This may be surprising to many people who see Islam as a patriarchal religion. Maybe the reason for this misconception is the very nature of the feminine in Islam. The Divine Feminine in Islam manifests metaphysically and in the inner expression of the religion. The Divine Feminine is not so much a secret within Islam as She is the compassionate Heart of Islam that enables us to know Divinity. Her centrality demonstrates her necessary and life-giving role in Islam."
- Laurence Galian

In esoteric reality of Islam, there is a specific and very important Divine Feminine Face exists who is none other than the beloved daugher of our venerable Master, Fatima Zahra. Fatima is regarded by some Sufis and theologians as the first spiritual head (qutb) of the Sufi fellowship. May Allah help us receive blessing through our effort to understand her and forgive our limitations of this feeble effort. Madad ya Fatima bint Muhammad! Madad ya light of the eyes of Mustafa!

NEXT POST: In the next post, Inshallah, I would like to share more on Fatima and a contemporary Sufi seeker's dream of Fatima at the holy sanctuary of Kaba.

O Allah bless Ahmad, the guide to the presence of purity (ilaa hadrati t-tuhri), with all the forms of perfection. And his holy family, specially the purified ones, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Hussein and noble companions. And O Lord! Through the compassionate guide, Muhammad, grant us sciences that will benefit us on the Day of Meeting.

# References and related posts.
* Islam and the Divine Feminine
* Earthly Mother | The extra-ordinary teaching of Divine Feminine in Essene Gospel
* Mystery of Woman | the Feminine Soul
* Feminine Spirituality | Inspirations and Wisdom
* Esoteric Inner Meaning of Virgin Mary | Receptive Soul in Loving Surrender
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