Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mary of the Soul and Jesus of the Heart

(Excerpts are from the Pickthall Translation of the Quran and Tafsir Al-Kashani translated by Feras Hamza)

3:33 Lo! Allah preferred Adam and Noah and the Family of Abraham and the Family of 'Imran above (all His) creatures.

3:34 They were descendants one of another. Allah is Hearer, Knower.

The seed of one another, in terms of religion and in reality, since generation by birth are of two types, formal and spiritual. Every prophet is a successor to another prophet in terms of the affirmation of Oneness, gnosis and what relates to the esoteric principles of religion and is as such that [other] prophet’s son, similar to the [case of] sons of [Sufi] shaykhs in our times. As they say, you have three fathers, a father that has given birth to you, a father that has nurtured you and a father that has given you knowledge. So just as the existence of the body in the formal birth is generated within the womb of the çmother from the seminal infusion of the father, so the existence of the heart in the true birth becomes manifest within the womb of the preparedness of the soul [generated] by the [spiritual] infusion of the shaykh or teacher; it is to this [latter] birth that Jesus, peace be upon him, alluded in his saying: ‘He who has not been born again shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’ [cf. John 3:3] ...

3:35 (Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower!

Lo! It is You Who are the Hearer, the Knower. Know that the intentions and configurations of the soul have an effect on the soul of the child, just as foods have an effect on its body. Thus the one whose food is licit and wholesome and the configurations of whose soul are luminous, and whose intentions are sincere and directed towards the Truth, his child will be a believer, a truthful one, a saint or a prophet. The one whose food is forbidden and the configurations of whose soul are dark and vile, whose intentions are corrupt and despicable, his child will be corrupt or a  vile disbeliever, since the semen from which the child issues is generated by that food, nurtured in that soul and thus corresponds to it. That is why the Messenger of God said, ‘A child is the innermost secret of its father, and so the truthfulness of Mary and the prophethood of Jesus were the blessing of the truthfulness of her father.

3:36 And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast.

3:37 And her Lord accepted her with full acceptance and vouchsafed to her a goodly growth; and made Zachariah her guardian. Whenever Zachariah went into the sanctuary 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. Allah giveth without stint to whom He will.

[Whenever Zachariah went into the sanctuary, where she was,] he found her with provisions: it is possible that what is meant by this is spiritual provision in the way of gnoses, [spiritual] realities, knowledge and wisdoms that were being effused upon her from that which is with God. Since to be designated specifically by [divine] withness (ʿindiyya) is proof that these [provisions] were provisions directly from God (laduniyya).

3:38 Then Zachariah prayed unto his Lord and said: My Lord! Bestow upon me of Thy bounty goodly offspring. Lo! Thou art the Hearer of Prayer.

Then Zachariah prayed to his Lord: Zachariah was an extremely old man and a leader and guardian of the people. He requested from his Lord a true child who would take his place in nurturing and guiding people, as alluded to in sūra Kāf-hāʾ-yāʾ-ʿayn-ṣād. He then bestows upon him the gift of John (Yaḥyā) from his own loins through his own ability after he had been commanded to cleave in spiritual retreat for three days. At this point you might seek the interpretation [of this] by seeking a correspondence [with this story] to your own states and the details of your existence as you have come to know. That is to say, the corporeal nature, that is, the corporeal faculty is [represented by] the wife of ʿImrān the spirit, who vowed as an offering what was in her faculty of the reassured soul to God, exalted be He, by complying with the command of the Truth and by her obedience to it and so she gave birth to the female of the soul. God thereupon placed the Zachariah of reflection in charge of her after He accepted her [offering] on account of her being pure and holy. Whenever the Zachariah of reflection entered into the sanctuary of the brain, where she was, he found her with provisions of intuitive meanings which had been unveiled to her [simply] as a result of her purity without any distinction of reflective capacity on her part. Then the Zachariah of reflection called upon the compositions of those meanings and sought from God as a bestowal a wholesome child sanctified from the pollutants of nature. God heard his call, that is, He responded. Thereupon the angels of the spiritual faculties called to him as he stood fulfilling His command putting together the components of knowledge, communing with his Lord, seeking that the lights descend upon him and approaching Him by orienting himself towards the world of holiness in the sanctuary of the brain;

3:39 And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous.

That ‘God gives you good tidings of John, of the intellect in act, confirming, Jesus of the heart, believing in him, as he is Word from God, sanctified as he is above the world of bodies and material generation, a lord, to all kinds of faculties, and one chaste, preventing his soul from engaging [his] corporeal nature or clothing himself in the natures of the corporeal faculties, and a prophet, informing [as he will] of forms of gnosis and universal truths and teaching virtuous character traits and correct manners of governance by the command of the Truth; of the righteous’, of the dispersions and disengagement that by virtue of their acts merit being among those brought near to the divine presence after the reflection [sc. Zachariah] had attained the old age of the limit of its [creational] stage but had not reached the ability to perceive the holy truths and the universal gnoses; while his wife, who constituted the nature of the egocentric spirit being the locus for the disposal of reflection, barren by [pure] disengaged light. The indication of that, namely, the indication of the actualisation of the disengaged light and its becoming manifested by the pure soul is the abstention [by Zachariah] from communing with the corporeal faculties as these seek to actualise their demands and desires as well as [abstaining from] mixing with them with regard to the surpluses of their pleasures and lusts for three days, each day constituting a full decade of the [various] stages of his life, ten years [in all], except for gesturing to them by some subtle token, commanding them to [perform] the glorification specific to each one of them — without drawing near to any of them with regard to their goals — and occupying himself for three days, the duration of which is thirty years starting from the age of discernment which is [after] the first ten [years], with the remembrance of his Lord in the sanctuary of the brain and [with] the glorification specific to that always. Likewise the angels of the spiritual faculties said to Mary of the pure wholesome soul:

3:40 He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when age hath overtaken me already and my wife is barren? (The angel) answered: So (it will be). Allah doeth what He will.

3:41 He said: My Lord! Appoint a token for me. (The angel) said: The token unto thee (shall be) that thou shalt not speak unto mankind three days except by signs. Remember thy Lord much, and praise (Him) in the early hours of night and morning.

3:42 And when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee and made thee pure, and hath preferred thee above (all) the women of creation.

God has elected you, because of your being above lust, and made you pure, from the vices of reprehensible character traits and attributes, and He has chosen you above the women, of the concupiscent souls variegated by despicable acts and vile natures.

3:43 O Mary! Be obedient to thy Lord, prostrate thyself and bow with those who bow (in worship).

O Mary: be obedient to your Lord by [the fulfillment of] the duties of acts of obedience and worship, and prostrate, at the station of brokenness, humility, poverty, incapacity and pardon-seeking, and bow, at the station of submissiveness and heartfelt humility with those who submit.

3:44 This is of the tidings of things hidden. We reveal it unto thee (Muhammad). Thou wast not present with them when they threw their pens (to know) which of them should be the guardian of Mary, nor wast thou present with them when they quarreled (thereupon).

That is of the tidings of the Unseen, that is, the states of the unseen aspects of your existence. We reveal it to you, O prophet of the spirit, for you were not with them, [you were not] with the spiritual and ego-centric faculties, that is, at their rank or station, when they were casting their quills, which of them should have charge of Mary: that is, [when] they were vying against one another with their arrows and hurrying with their shares, which of them should govern Mary the soul and take charge of it in accordance with his opinion and what his nature entails, to preside over it and command it to what he sees as beneficial to his affair; nor were you with them, at the station of the breasts, which is the locus for the conflict between the spiritual faculties and the ego-centric ones, the locus of the their conflict being the breast, when they were disputing, in conflict back and forth seeking to be in charge when this [possibility] became manifest, before [engaging in] spiritual discipline, when the angels of the spiritual faculties were victorious with the success granted by the Truth after spiritual discipline and said to Mary the soul:

3:45 (And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah).

‘God gives you good tidings of a Word, the heart, bestowed, from Him, whose name is the Anointed one, because he shall anoint you with light, honoured shall he be in this world, because of his perception of particulars and his determining of the means of livelihood in the best, purest and most correct way, such that the human beings of the outer faculties and the jinn of the inner faculties obey, revere and exalt him, and, in, the Hereafter, because of his perception of universal meanings and holy gnoses and his management of the final return and his guiding to the Truth such that We shall grant him the kingdom of the heaven of the spirit and honour him, being among those brought near to the presence of the Truth, accepting of His self-disclosures and unveilings.

3:46 He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous.

He shall speak to mankind in the cradle, of the body, and in his manhood, as one having attained the stage of the shaykh of the spirit overtaken by the brightness of his  light, and he is of those who are good, for the station of gnosis’.

3:47 She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me ? He said: So (it will be). Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is.

She said, ‘Lord, how shall I have a child when no mortal has touched me?’: the soul marvels at its bearing child and giving birth without having been touched by a mortal, that is, without having been nurtured by a shaykh or taught by a mortal teacher, this being the significance of her virginity. He said, ‘It is such. God creates what He will, that is, He elects whom He will through divine attraction and unveiling, endowing that person with the station of the heart without nurture or pedagogy, as is the state with [God’s] beloved and some of the loving ones.

3:48 And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel,

And He will teach him, by Lordly pedagogy the Book of intellectual knowledge and the wisdoms of the divine laws and the gnoses of the divine scriptures such as the Torah and the Gospels, in other words, the exoteric and the esoteric gnoses.

3:49 And will make him a messenger unto the Children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah's leave. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah's leave. And I announce unto you what ye eat and what ye store up in your houses. Lo! herein verily is a portent for you, if ye are to be believers.

To be a messenger, to the spiritual ones who are prepared from among the children of Jacob the spirit: ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that proves that I have come from His part; I will create for you, through [my] nurture and acts of purification and practical wisdom, out of the clay of the souls of the deficiently prepared ones, like the shape of a bird, the one that flies off to the Holy Side by the intensity of its yearning; then I will breathe into it, of the breath of divine knowledge and an infusion of the true life by the effects of [divine] company and nurture, and it will be a bird, that is, a living soul, flying away with the wings of yearning and aspiration towards the Side of the Truth. I will also heal the blind, the one veiled from the light of the Truth whose insight has never opened up [to the truth] and the sun of whose face has never seen the Truth or His light and has never known His folk adorned as they are by the light of guidance; and [heal] the leper, whose soul is disfigured by the sickness of vices and corrupt beliefs and the love of this world and the pollutants of lusts, with the medicine of the souls; and I bring to life, the dead of ignorance by means of the life of knowledge, by the leave of God. And I will inform you too of what things you eat, [of what things] you partake in your pursuit of lusts and pleasures, and what you treasure up in your houses, that is, in the houses of your unseens in the way of motives and intentions. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

3:50 And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me.

Likewise, confirming that which was before me of the Torah, that is, of the Torah of exoteric knowledge, and to make lawful for you some of that which was forbidden to you, of the inner lights; I have come to you with a sign, a proof, from your Lord, namely, the proclamation of Oneness concerning which no prophet has ever disagreed with me. So fear God, if you oppose me, for I am upon the truth, and obey me, when I call you to the proclamation of Oneness.

3:51 Lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.

3:52 But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah ? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him).

And when Jesus, the heart, sensed, on the part of the ego-centric faculties, disbelief, veiling, denial and opposition, he said, ‘Who will be my helpers unto God?’, that is, he demanded from the spiritual faculty what he required to assist him against them in his orientation towards God. The disciples said, that is, the purest and best aspects of the mentioned spiritual elements [said]: ‘We will be helpers of God; we believe in God, through proofs and by being illumined with the light of the spirit; witness that we have submitted, [that] we are obedient and compliant.

3:53 Our Lord! We believe in that which Thou hast revealed and we follow him whom Thou hast sent. Enrol us among those who witness (to the truth).

Lord, we believe in what You have revealed, of the knowledge of Oneness and the effusion of [Your] light, and we follow the Messenger; inscribe us therefore with those who bear witness’, those who are present before You, observing Your command, or of those who bear witness to Your Oneness.

3:54 And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.

And they schemed, that is, the estimations and imaginations [schemed] to seize the heart and destroy it through all sorts of tempting insinuations, and God schemed, by making rational arguments and definitive proofs prevail over their imaginations and doubts, raising Jesus the heart to the heaven of the spirit and casting his likeness upon the soul so that their attempt to slay [it] collapses; and God is the best of schemers, for His scheming prevailed; and He said to Jesus:

3:55 (And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.

‘I shall gather you, that is, I shall seize you unto Me from among them, and raise you to Me, that is, to the heaven of the spirit alongside Me, and I shall cleanse you of, the impurity of being alongside, those who disbelieved, from among the vile faculties and their scheming and [from] the vileness of their company; and I shall set those who follow you, of the spiritual ones, above those who disbelieved, of the ego-centric ones until the Day of the Greater Resurrection and the arrival at the station of the Unity. Then, on that Day, to Me shall be your return, and I will decide between you, in truth, as to what you were at variance about, before unity, in terms of the contention and conflict that resulted from [those] faculties. I shall then establish each one in its rightful abode there and shall grant it what is appropriate for it from that which is with Me, whereafter disagreement and conflict shall be removed.

3:56 As for those who disbelieve I shall chastise them with a heavy chastisement in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers.

As for the disbelievers, I will chastise them with a terrible chastisement, by depriving them of the station of the heart and veiling them in the guises of their deeds.

3:57 And as for those who believe and do good works, He will pay them their wages in full. Allah loveth not wrong-doers.

But as for the believers, from among the spiritual ones, who do deeds of righteousness, of all sorts of acts of [spiritual] augmentation, adornment and purification in order to assist the heart against the soul and remaining closely behind it as it orients itself towards the Truth; He will pay them in full their wages, by way of the holy lights and spiritual illuminations that radiate upon them; God loves not the evildoers, who stint what is due by right of wages. As for the intepretation [of this verse] without [effecting] correspondences, it is that they schemed to send someone to slay Jesus, peace be upon him. But a corporeal form was presented to them as a likeness, which was the manifestation of Jesus, the spirit of God, peace be upon him, in the real form of Jesus such that they supposed it to be Jesus and so slew it and crucified it, when God had raised Jesus, peace be upon him, to the fourth heaven as his spirit, peace be upon him, was an effusion of the spiritual aspect of the sun. But in their ignorance they did not know that the spirit of God could not be slain. When he was certain of his state before  being raised, he [Jesus] said to his companions: ‘I am departing to my father, your heavenly father’, that is, I am seeking purification from the world of impurity and connecting to the holy spirit, bestower of forms, effuser of spirits and perfections, nurturer of men by means of infusing [their] spirit with the breath. I shall reinforce you with that effusion. At that time his call was not heeded and his example was not  followed and so he commanded the disciples to disperse after him across the land and to call [people] to the Truth. They said, ‘How are we to do this if you shall not be amongst us and now when you are our call is not heeded’. He said [to them]: ‘The sign of my reinforcement of you is that people will accept your call after me’. After he was raised, his companions would not leave anyone until he heeded their call. Acceptance of their call appeared amongst people, their word prevailed, and their religion spread in all corners of the world. But since he [Jesus] did not reach the seventh heaven to which Muḥammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, ascended, the one referred to as the Lote-tree of the Ultimate Boundary [Q. 53:14], by which I mean, [that Jesus did not reach] the ultimate station of perfection and did not attain the degree of [divine] love [which Muḥammad attained], it was inevitable that he would have to come down again in a corporeal form to follow the Muḥammadan religious community by which he would attain that degree [of divine love], and God knows best the realities of things.

3:58 This (which) We recite unto thee is a revelation and a wise reminder.

3:59 Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is.

Truly, the likeness of Jesus, in other words, his attribute in God’s sight, his being created by [divine] power without a father, is as Adam’s likeness, in having been created without parents. Know that the marvels of [divine] power are endless and there can be no analogy in this respect to the effect that there is an analogue from the world of wisdom for the creation of a human being without parents, since there are many deficient animal beings of unusual nature that are generated from the point of creation in a short period of time then reproduce and propagate [further] … As for His saying: ‘Be’, and he was, this is an allusion to the infusion of the spirit, which derives from the world of the command and as such is not preceded by any substrata or [time] duration, as in the case of the creation of human bodies. Adam thus corresponds to Jesus as mentioned in that both share in the breaking of the [creational] habit and in that both of their bodies were created from the dust of the elements, both preceded by substrata and a duration, and that their spirit is originated [without precedent] from the world of the command which [spirit] is not preceded by substrata or duration.

3:60 (This is) the truth from thy Lord (O Muhammad), so be not thou of those who waver.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Al-Ghazali on the Sufi Path of Knowledge

"And it is not for any human being that God should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a partition or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills." (42:51)

If you have come to know this, know also that the inclination of the Sufis is toward the knowledge gained through inspiration, more than that gained through instruction. Therefore they do not jealously covet the study of knowledge, nor the acquisition of that which authors have written, nor discussion about the statement of [doctrines] and proofs that have been mentioned. But they say, "The way of knowledge is to put foremost spiritual striving, to abolish blameworthy trait, to cut all ties, and to advance toward God, the Exalted, with utmost concern." Whenever this takes place, God becomes the ruler over the heart of His creature and the surety for his illumination with the light of knowledge. When God becomes the ruler of the heart, He floods it with mercy and sheds His light upon it, and the breast is opened and there is revealed to it the secret of the world of spirits (malakut), and by a gift of mercy there is cleared away from the surface of the heart the veil of whiteness that blinds its eye, and there shines in it the real nature of divine things.

The servant has only to make himself ready by a thorough purification, by summoning intention along with a sincere desire, by complete yearning, and by watching with constant expectation for the mercy that God, the Exalted, may grant to him. For prophets and saints have had divine things revealed to them, and the light has flooded their breasts, not by learning and study and the writing of books, but by asceticism (zuhd) in this present world, by cutting the self off from all of its ties, by emptying the heart of all of its busying affairs, and by advancing with the utmost concern toward God, the Exalted; for whoever belongs to God, God belongs to him.

The [Sufis] assert that the way to this is, first of all, by cutting off ties with this present world and by emptying the heart of all of them, by taking away concern for family, possessions, children, homeland, knowledge, rule, and rank. Nay rather he must bring his heart into that state in which the existence of all these is the same as their nonexistence. Then he must withdraw alone, apart, into a place of private devotion (zawiya), and limit himself to the prescribed religious duties (fara'id) and the supererogatory prayers (rawatib). He must sit with an empty heart  and concentrated purpose. He must not divide his thought by reciting the Qur'an, nor the contemplation of its exposition, nor by books of hadith, nor anything else. But he must strive [such] that nothing save God, the Exalted, shall come into his mind. Then after he has seated himself in a place apart (khalwa) he shall keep saying continuously with his tongue, "Allah, Allah," and his heart shall be fixed on it too, until he comes finally to a state in which the motion of the tongue will cease and it will seem as though the word is flowing over his tongue. He must continue patiently in this until every trace of the word is effaced from the tongue and he finds his heart persevering in this devotional exercise (dhikr). Still he shall persevere until the form and letters of the expression and the very appearance of the word is effaced from the heart and there remains present in it naught save the ideal meaning which is, as it were, adhering to and inseparable from the heart.

To attain to this point is a matter of his choice; so too is the prolonging of this condition by warding off the suggestions of Satan. Not by his choice, however, can he procure the gift of the mercy of God, the Exalted. By what he has done thus far he has exposed himself to the breezes of God's mercy, and it only remains for him to wait for such mercy as God may grant to him, even as He has, in this way, given His mercy to the prophets and saints. Upon doing this, if his lusts do not draw him aside nor the suggestions of the self (hadith al-nafs) engross him with the ties of this present world, there will shine forth the gleams of reality into his heart. In its beginning this will be like a blinding flash of lightning. It is not continuous but it returns, although it may delay. If it returns it may continue, and it may be but a flash. If it continues it may be for a longer or shorter time. These different types may appear, the one succeeding the other, or they may be limited to one sort only. The stages (manazil) of the saints of God, the Exalted, in this are unlimited, even as the superiority of their nature and moral characteristics is not to be reckoned. So this way goes back to an absolute purifying and clarifying and brightening of the heart on your part, and then only to make ready and wait in expectation.

(From The Revival of the Religious Sciences, Book 21: The Marvels of the Heart)

Meditation Upon the Divine Essence and Attributes According to Al-Ghazali

The Second Sphere is Meditation upon God Most High. Meditation (upon God) is either about His essence and attributes, or about His acts and handiworks; and the greatest station is meditation upon His essence and attributes. However, if people do not have the strength for that and their intellects not comprehend it, the Religious Law has forbidden it and has said: 'Do not meditate about that for truly ye have not the strength for its magnitude.' This difficulty is not because of the concealment of the majesty of God; rather, it is from its radiance ... Therefore, it is preferable that this not be discussed, nor should it be meditated upon, except by a person who is perfect. And then, too, he will necessarily fall into perplexity and stupefaction at the end.

- The Alchemy of Happiness, pp. 848-849

The first share is a knowledge of these meanings by way of witnessing and unveiling, so that their essential realities are clarified for them in a disclosure equivalent in clarity to the certainty achieved by a man in regard to his own inner qualities, which he perceives by seeing his inward aspect, not by outward sensation. How great a difference there is between this and a faith derived from one's parents and teachers by conformity and persistence in it, even though it be accompanied by argumentative proofs from Kalam.

- The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, p.31

Allah - The Divine Essence

You should know that this name is the greatest of the ninety-nine names of God - great and glorious - because it refers to the essence which unites all the attributes of divinity, so that none of them is left out, whereas each of the remaining names only refers to a single attribute. Man's share in this name should be for him to become god-like [ta'alluh], by which I mean that his heart and his aspiration be taken up with God - great and glorious, that he not look towards anything other than him nor pay attention to what is not He, that he neither implore not fear anyone but Him. How could it be otherwise? For it had already been understood from this name that He is truly actual Existent, and that everything other than He is ephemeral, perishing and worthless except in relation to Him.

Asma al-Husna - The Divine Attributes

Al-Qayyum - The Self-Subsisting

If an existent were to exist whose essence would suffice for itself, whose subsistence would not be from another, and whose existence would not be conditioned by the existence of another, it would subsist in itself absolutely. If beyond that, every existent subsisted by virtue of it, such that the existence and conservation of things would be inconceivable without it, that would be the self-existing one since it subsisted in itself and each thing subsisted by it. But that is none other than God - may He be praised and exalted.

And man's access to this attribute is in proportion to this detachment from everything that is not God the most high.

Al-Mu'min - The Faithful

The Faithful is the one to whom security and safety are ascribed because he conveys the means to attain them and blocks the path of dangers. For security and safety are only conceivable in locations of fear, and fear only arises with the possibility of annihilation, diminishment or destruction. The absolutely faithful one is God - may he be praised and exalted - as the one from whose direction alone security and safety may conceivably emanate.

Man is basically weak by nature, subject to sickness, hunger and thirst from within; and to harm from burning, drowning, and from wounds and ferocious animals from without. The only one who can protect him from these fears is one who prepares remedies to counter and repel sickness, food to eliminate hunger and drink to slake the thirst, limbs to protect his body, and senses to gain information warning him from anything about to destroy him. Then there is his greatest fear - of eternal damnation - and nothing will protect him from that but the profession of faith in the unity of God. For God - may He be praised and exalted - guides him to it and makes him desire it, so that He says: '"there is no god but God", is My fortress, and whoever enters into My fortress is safe from my punishment'. For there is no security in the world unless it be derived from intermediaries which He alone creates and guides us in using. For he is the one who gave unto each thing its nature and then guided it aright (XX:50). He is truly the absolutely faithful one.

A man's share in this name and attribute lies in all creatures' being safe from him. Moreover, every fearful person can anticipate help from him in keeping harm away from them, whether in religious or worldly affairs. As the messenger of God - may God's blessing and peace be upon him - said: 'When one believes in God and the last day, his neighbors safe from his misdeeds'. Those men will be most worthy of the name 'faithful' who are instrumental in protecting a man from the punishment of God, but guiding him to the way of God - great and glorious - and directing him on the path of salvation …

Al-Muhaymin - The Guardian

The Guardian means with regard to God - great and glorious - the one who tends to His creatures with regard to their actions, their sustenance, and the time of their death. He tends to them by His cognizance, His possession, and His protection. Everyone who has complete comment of a situation, who takes possession of it and protects it, will be its 'guardian'. Taking command comes down to knowledge, possession to the perfection of power, and protection to action. The one who unites these meanings is named guardian. But only God - great and glorious - joins them absolutely and perfectly, so it was said: it is one of the names of God the most high recorded in ancient writings.

Every servant who watches over his heart until he supervises its depths and its secrets, and also takes possession of reforming his inner states and attributes, and undertakes to protect it continuously according to the requirements of his reform, will then be 'guardian' in relation to his heart.

Al-Qabid - The Constrictor

He who contracts is the one who appropriates souls form dead bodies at death and appropriates alms from the rich. He holds sustenance back from the poor until no strength is left. He contracts hearts and restricts them by what he discloses to them of His exaltation and majesty and His lack of concern.

The one who contracts among men is the one who is inspired by marvels of wisdom and has been given comprehensiveness of speech. He contracts the hearts of men by warning them of the majesty of God and His greatness, and the varieties of His punishments, His scourge and His revenge on His enemies. 

Al-Matin - The Firm

Firmness indicates intensification of strength. So God - may He be praised and exalted, insofar has He has intense strength, He is firm.

Al-Mumit - The Slayer

This comes down to bringing into existence. If the object is death, doing it is called killing. None is the creator of death but God, great and glorious.

Al-Hayy - The Alive

The living is both agent and perceiver, so much so that one who does not act or perceive at all is dead. the lowest level of perception involves the one perceiving being conscious of itself, for what is not conscious of itself is inanimate and dead. But the perfect and absolute living thing is one under whose perception all perceived things are arranged, as are all existing things under its activity, so that no perceived thing escapes its knowledge and no action its activity, and this is God - great and glorious, for He is the absolutely living one. As for every living thing other than He, its life is commensurate with its perception and its activity, and all of that is circumscribed within narrow limits. Furthermore, the living things diverge among themselves in this, and their ranking is a function of this divergence, as we indicated earlier in considering the ranks of angels, men, and beasts.

Al-Qahhar - The Dominator

The Dominator is the one who breaks the backs of the powerful among His enemies, and subdues them by killing and humiliation. Indeed there is no existing thing that is not subject to the domination of His power, and powerless in His grasp. That is all.

The dominator among men is the one who subdues his enemies. The greatest enemy of man is his soul, which is within him. The soul is more of an enemy to him than Satan, of whose enmity he is wary. Whoever conquers the passions of his soul conquers Satan, since Satan lures him to ruin by means of his passions. One of Satan's snares is woman, and it is inconceivable that one who has lost the desire for women fall into this snare. Similarly, one conquers this passion under the influence of religion and the counsel of reason. Whosoever conquers that passions of the soul has conquered all men; no one has any power over him since the goal of his enemies is to try to annihilate his body, yet that person lives for his spirit. Whoever dies to his passion in life will live in his death. Think not of those who are slain in the way of God, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision. Jubilant are they … (3:169-170)

Al-Fattah - The Opener

The Opener is the one by whose providence whatever is closed is opened, and by whose guidance whatever is unclear is disclosed. At times He opens kingdoms for His prophets and removes them from the hands of His enemies, saying: Lo! We have given thee [O Muhammad] a signal victory [opening] (48:1), and at other times He lifts the veils from the hearts of his holy men, opening to them the gates to the heavenly kingdoms and the beauties of his majesty. So He says: That which Allah opens unto mankind of mercy, none can withhold it (35:2). Whoever has in his hands the keys to the invisible world and the keys to sustenance, it is proper that he be called an opener.

Man should yearn to reach a point where the locks to the divine mysteries are opened by his speech, and where he might facilitate by his knowledge what creatures find difficult in religious and worldly affairs, for him to gain a share in the name of opener.

Al-Qawwi - The Strong

Strength indicates perfect power. So God - may He be praised and exalted, insofar as He possesses the utmost power and is perfect in it, is the strong one.

Al-Muntaqim - The Avenger

The Avenger is the one who breaks the back of the recalcitrant, punishes criminals, and intensifies the punishment of the oppressor - but only after excusing and warning them, and after giving them the opportunity and the time to change. Yet this is harsher vengeance than a quick punishment, for when the punishment is swift, one does not persist in disobedience, and as a consequence he does not deserve the full punishment.

Human vengeance is praiseworthy if it takes vengeance on the enemies of God the most high, and the worst such enemy is one's lower soul. So it behooves him to take vengeance on it in as much as it yields to disobedience or fails in its duty of worship. As it is reported regarding Abu Yazid - may God be merciful to him - that he said: 'My soul was so lazy one night as to keep me from litany, so I punished it by depriving it of water for a year. In this way should one pursue the path of vengeance.

Al-Ghalib - The Conqueror

Ar-Rahman - The Beneficent

The meaning of Rahman should be a kind of mercy beyond the powers of people, and related to happiness in the next life. The Infinitely Good is he who loves men, first by creating them; second, by guiding them to faith and to the means of salvation; third, by making them happy in the next world; and fourth, by granting them the contemplation of His noble face.

Man's share in the name of al-Rahman lies in his showing mercy to the negligent, dissuading them from the path of negligence towards God - great and glorious - by exhortation and counseling, by way of gentleness not violence, regarding the disobedient with eyes of mercy and not contempt; letting every insubordination perpetrated in the world be as his own misfortune, so sparring no effort to eliminate it to the extent that he can - all out of mercy to the disobedient lest they be exposed to God's wrath and so deserve to be removed from proximity to Him.

As-Salam - The Flawless

The Flawless is the one whose essence is free from defect, whose attributes escape imperfection, and whose actions are untarnished by evil; and given that He is like that, there is nothing flawless in existence which is not attributed to Him, and originates from Him.

Every servant whose heart is free form deceit, hatred, envy, and evil intent; and whose limbs are unblemished by sins and forbidden actions, and whose attributes are not affected by inversion and reversal, will be one who comes to God the most high with a flawless heart. Among men, whoever comes close in characterization to that true and unadulterated Flawless One, whose quality cannot be duplicated, may be considered to be flawless.

Al-Basit - The Expander

He who expands is the one who extends souls to bodies at quickening. He extends sustenance to the weak. He extends sustenance to the rich to the point where no need remains. He expands hearts by what He makes available to them of his godliness, kindness, and beauty.

The one who expands among men is the one who is inspired by the marvels of wisdom and has been given comprehensiveness of speech. He expands the hearts of men by reminding them of the blessings of God - great and glorious - and His consolation.

Al-Wasi' - The Vast

The Vast derives from expansiveness, and expansiveness is sometimes linked to knowledge, when it extends to and comprehends a multitude of objects; and at other times it is linked to charity and widespread blessings, extending as far as possible to whatever they descend upon. So the absolutely vast is God - may He be praised and exalted - for it His knowledge be considered, the sea of things He knows has no shore; in fact the seas would be exhausted if they were ink for His words. And if His beneficence and blessing be considered, there is no end to the things He can do. Moreover, every expansiveness, however, immense, comes up against limits, so the one which does not come up against limits is most deserving of the name of expansiveness. Now God - may He be praised and exalted - is the absolutely vast, for everything that is vast is confined by comparison with what is yet more vast, and for every expansiveness which comes up against limits, additions to it may still be conceived. Yet it is inconceivable for anything to be added to what is without limit or boundary.

Expansiveness for man consists in his knowledge and his character. For if this knowledge is increased, he is vast in proportion to the extent of his knowledge; and if his character expands to the point the tit is not confined by fear of poverty of the anger which accompanies envy, or the dominance of greed, or other attributes - then his is vast. Yet all of that has limits; only God the most high is truly vast.

Ar-Rafi' - The Exalter

The Exalter is the one who raises up the faithful by salvation. He exalts His holy people by bringing them closer. And whoever elevates his vision above tangible and imagined things, and his intention above blameworthy desires, God has raised him to the horizon of the angels close to Him. None but God most high does this, for He is the Exalter.

Man's share in this consists in exalting the truth but supporting those who are right and befriending God's friends in order to exalt them.

Al-Jamil - The Beautiful

Ar-Rahim - The Merciful

Perfect mercy is pouring out benefaction to those in need, and directing it to them, for their care; and inclusive mercy is when it embraces deserving and undeserving alike. The mercy of God - great and glorious - is both perfect and inclusive: perfect inasmuch as it wants to fulfill the needs of those in need and does meet them; and inclusive inasmuch as it embraces both deserving and undeserving, encompassing this world and the next, and includes bare necessities and needs, and special gifts over and above them. So He is utterly and truly merciful.

His share in the name al-Rahim lies in not turning away from any needs persons without meeting their needs to the extent of his ability, nor turning from any poor in his neighborhood or town without committing himself to them and ridding them of their poverty - either from his own wealth or reputation, or by interceding on their behalf with another. And if he be unable to do all that, he should assist them by prayer or by showing grief on account of their need, in sympathy and love towards them, as though he were thereby sharing in their misfortune and their need.

Al-Ghafur - The All-Forgiving

He is all-forgiving in the sense that He is the perfection and completeness of forgiveness and forgiving, to the point of reaching the highest level of forgiveness. 

Al-Karim - The Generous

The Generous is the one who forgives it he has the power, follows through when he promises, and exceeds the limits one could hope for when he gives; nor is he concerned how much he gives or to whom he gives. If a need is brought before someone else, he is unhappy; if he is treated badly, he reproves but does not pursue it. Whoever seeks refuge and support with him is not lost, and one may dispense with entreaties and mediators. Now, the one who unites all this in himself, without affectation, is the absolutely generous one, and that belongs to God alone - may he be praised and exalted.

Man may endeavor to acquire these qualities, but only in some things and with a sort of affectation. In this way he may be characterized as generous, yet he remains deficient by comparison with the absolutely generous.

Al-Mujib - The Answerer of Prayers

The Answerer of prayers is the one who responds to the requests of those who ask by assisting them, to the call of those who call upon him by answering them, and responds to the plight of the poor with all they need. In fact, he blesses before the request and grants favors before the entreaty. But that belongs to God alone - great and exalted, for He knows the needs of the needy before they even ask; indeed He already knew them in eternity, so He arranged the sources sufficient to their needs by creating good and nourishment, and by facilitating both the causes and the means of fulfilling all these needs.

Man needs to be responsive first of all to his Lord, in whatever He commands or forbids him to do, and whatever He assigns to him or summons him to do. Then to His servants, in whatever God - great and glorious - bestowed on him by way of enabling him to do it; and in assisting every beggar in whatever they ask him, if he is able to do it; or with a kind response if he is unable to do so. For God - great and glorious said: Therefore the beggar drive not away (43:10).

Al-'Afu' - The Effacer of Sins

The Effacer of sins is the one who erases sins and overlooks acts of disobedience. Man's share in this name should be clear; he is one who excuses everyone who harms him, doing good for him instead, as he sees God the most high doing good in this world to the disobedient and the unbeliever rather than bringing them swiftly to punishment. And he may excuse them by relenting towards them, for should he thus relent, their sins will be erased, since 'the one who repents of wrongdoing becomes like the one who did no wrong.' and this is the utmost point of erasing the crime.

Al-Qarib - The Near

Al-Ahad - The One 

Al-Ali' - The Most High

The Most High is the one above whose rank there is no rank, and all ranks are inferior to Him. Angels are above men, men above animals, and God - great and glorious - is above everything, for He is absolutely high. he is the living and the life-giver, the absolute knower, creator of scholars' knowledge, transcending every kind of imperfection. Indeed, the inanimate are assigned to the lowest grades of the grades of perfection, while nothing is assigned to the other side but God the most high, and this is the way you should understand His being above and His height.

It is inconceivable that man be absolutely high, since he does not attain any rank without there being a higher one is existence, namely the ranks of prophets and of angels. Of course, it is conceivable that one again the rank such that there is none above it among people, and that is the rank of our prophet Muhammad - may God's blessing and peace be upon him. Yet even he falls short by comparison with the absolute height, since he is high by comparison with some existing things. Yet because he is high by comparison with what in fact exists, and not by way of necessity, his existence might be accompanied by the possible existence of a man above him. Now the absolutely most high has the quality of being above not comparatively but necessarily, that is, not in relation to any existing thing which might be associated with it as a possible contrast. Enough!

Al-Wahid - The Unique

The Unique is the one who can neither be divided nor duplicated. Concerning its not being divisible, it is like a unitary substance which cannot be divided: it is said to be one in the sense that no part of it is itself a substance, as a point has no parts. And God the most high is one in the sense that it is impossible for His essence to be arranged into parts.

A Man may be unique when he has no equal coming his fellow men in a characteristic reckoned among good qualities, yet that is a function of the class of men and the times, since it is possible that one like him emerge in another time, and furthermore, it is said in relation to some qualities and not all. So it belongs to none but God to e absolute unity.

Al-Muqsit - The Equitable

The Equitable is he who demands justice for the wronged from the wrongdoer. Its perfection lies in linking the satisfaction of the wrongdoer [resulting from the crime] to the satisfaction of the one wronged, for that is the ultimate in justice and equity, yet none is capable of it but God - may he be praised and exalted.

Those men who have the greatest share in this name are those who insist first of all on justice from themselves for others, and then from one for another, but forbear demanding it from another for themselves.

Al-Nur - The Light

Light is the visible one by whom everything is made visible, for what is visible in itself and makes other things visible is called 'light'. In the measure that existence is opposed to non-existence, what is visible cannot but be linked to to existence, for no darkness is darker than non-existence. What is free from the darkness of non-existence, and even from the possibility of non-existence, who draws everything from the darkness of non-existence to the manifestation of existence, is worthy of being named light. Existence is a light streaming to all things from the light of His essence, for He is the light of the heavens and the earth. And as there is not an atom of the light of the sun which does not by itself lead one to the existence of the sun which illuminates it, so there is not a single atom from the existents of the heavens and the earth and what lies between them which does not lead one by the very possibility of its existence to the necessary existence who brings them into being.

Al-Bayyan - The Evident

As-Samad - The Eternal

The Eternal is the one to whom one turns in need and the one who is intended in our desires, for ultimate dominion culminates in him. The one whom God has appointed to be a model for His servants in fulfilling their worldly and religious duties, and who secures the needs of His creatures by his word and action - to that one God bestows a share in this attribute. But the absolutely eternal is the one to whom one turns in every need, and He is God - may he be praised and exalted.

Al-Jalil - The Majestic

The Majestic is the one qualified by the attributes of majesty. Now the attributes of majesty are might, dominion, sanctification, knowledge, wealth, power, and other attributes we have mentioned. And the one who combines all of them is the absolutely majestic, while the majesty of one qualified by some of these attributes is proportional to what he receives of those particular attributes. So the absolutely majestic is none other than God - great and glorious. And as 'the Great' refers to the perfection of essence, and 'the Majestic' to the perfection of attributes, so does 'the Tremendous' refer to the perfection of essence and attributes together, as perceived by intellectual insight - provided it encompasses the intellectual perception rather than being encompassed by it.

The majestic and beautiful among men is the one whose interior attributes are attractive so as to give pleasure to discerning hearts; exterior beauty is of lesser worth.

Al-Majid - The All-Glorious

The All-Glorious is the one who is noble in essence, beautiful in actions, and bountiful in gifts and in favors. It is as if nobility of essence is called 'glory' when goodness of action is combined with it. He is also the one who glorifies - yet one of these is more indicative of intensification. It is as if The All-Glorious combines the meanings of The Majestic, The Bestower, and the Generous.

Ash-Shahid - The Witness

The Universal Witness refers in its meaning to knowledge with a specific addition, for God - great and glorious - is knower of invisible as well as visible things (9:94). Now the invisible comprises whatever is interior and the visible whatever is external, and this is what is seen, So if one considers knowledge alone, He is the one who knows, while if it is linked to invisible and interior things, He is the One who is aware of everything; and if it be linked to external thing, he is the Universal Witness. And it may be considered as well that He will bear witness to mankind on the day of resurrection from what He knows and has seen concerning them.

Al-Haqq - The Truth

The Truth is the one who is the antithesis of falsehood, as things may become evident by their opposites. Now everything of which one is aware may be absolutely false, absolutely true, or true in one respect and false in another. Whatever is impossible in itself is absolutely false, while that which is necessary in itself is absolutely true, and whatever is possible in itself and necessary by another is true in one respect and false in another. For this last has no existence in itself and so is false, yet acquires existence from the side of what is other than it, so it is an existent in this respect that acquired existence is bestowed upon it - so in that respect it is true while from the side of itself it is false. For that reason the Most High said: everything is perishing but His face (28:88). He is forever and eternally thus; not in one state to the exclusion of another, for everything besides him - forever and eternally - is not deserving of existence with respect to its own essence but only deserves it by virtue of Him, for in itself it is false; it is true only in virtue of what is other than it. From this you will know that the absolutely true is the One truly existing in itself, from which every true thing gets its true Reality.

The existent most deserving of being called true is God the most high, and the knowledge which most deserves to be called true is the knowledge of God - great and glorious - for it is true in itself; that is, it corresponds to what is known, forever and eternally. 

The most true assertion is your saying: there is no god but God, for it is correct forever and eternally, by virtue of itself and not by virtue of another.

Man's share in this name lies in seeing himself as false, and not seeing anything other than God - great and glorious - as true. For if a man is true, he is not true in himself but true in God - great and glorious, for he exists by virtue of Him and not in himself; indeed he would be nothing had the Truth not created him.

Al-Muta'ali - The Exalted

The Exalted means the same as The Most High, although its form is intensified.

(All meditations are excerpted from Al-Ghazali's The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Provisional Conclusion Regarding Shaykh Isa

My provisional conclusion is that Shaykh Isa - radi allahu anhu - was a spiritual master of the first magnitude, but that even the shuyukh have flaws, the same flaws that we are subject to and which may be seen within all spiritual masters once you peer behind the veil of devotion that helps to lift us up to their lofty stations. As Allah judges us in accordance with our good intentions rather than our shortcomings, I believe with conviction that we will all meet together again on the last day beneath the Banner of Praise, where our loving and merciful Master Muhammad – sallallahu alayhi wa-salam - will intercede on behalf of all of us for the forgiveness of Allah and any flaws or shortcomings known and unknown. Allahu Alam

"What is in question concretely? Not to aspire to Perfection and to lament because one does not attain it, but simply to abstain from evil, day by day and according to circumstances; and this while placing our Faith in God, while invoking Him with all the more fervor in that we are conscious of our weakness. It is necessary to avoid perfectionism--necessarily individualistic--as well as the cynicism which thinks that anything is permitted with the protection of Mercy. Mercy reaches us in function of the sincerity of our intention." (Text 760) 

The Devil is Especially Active Against the Fuqara

If Shaykh Isa's teachings, method, and pneumatic personality are true without qualification and are a manifestation of the Truth, a gift and message from heaven, then the expectation is that they are to be accepted totally, for "it is in the nature of the truth to require of us all that we are." A commonly applied concomitant of this is that should a doubt arise, it is due either to stupidity and a moral failing which requires chastisement, or to a satanic influence which requires spiritual guidance to lead you into conformity with the Truth.

The effects of this logic are paramount. Twenty-five years ago, they led to a phenomenon which some people referred to as a "Reign of Terror" in Bloomington inflicted upon them from above by their functionaries where they felt subjected to psychological abuse, manipulation, and control and wherein the doctrine and method inherently capable of being understood had become reduced to a kind of ideology. According to one description, "The result was a kind of ‘kafkaesque’ bureaucratic world of petty and meaningless hierarchy. A world wherein no one could really lay hold of simple truth, understand exactly what was meant, or even speak frankly without being dragged into complexes of guilt or confusion.” Or as another faqir wrote in a letter which I could have written myself, based even upon my limited and provisional exposure to the Bloomington perspective over 25 years later,

“Sidi […]’s letter … is an example of the classic ad hominem of the Marymis: To prove someone wrong, one ignores his remarks, statements, or facts, and merely attacks him personally as a liar and calumniator. If one were to say that two and two equal four, then this would be quite wrong because one has not first of all cleared it with the Shaykh or his representatives. It becomes true only when they say so. What S. […] and other Avatarists are implying is that one cannot know the truth outside of Shaykh Isa’s judgement. But that is pure solipsism, for it subjects us to the opinions of Shaykh Isa and his representatives as if only they knew what the truth might be. We can never have objective criteria independent of either him or his lieutenants. The conclusion is inevitable: Neither the Koran nor the Sunnah can supply us with standards by which to judge persons or things or even Shaykh Isa and his representatives. We all fall, therefore, into perpetual arguments in a circle: we cannot know that anything is true until we ask Shaykh Isa and his chiefs; but, then, how do we know that what they are saying is true? Well, that is simple enough: we merely ask them if it is true that what they are saying is true, and they will tell us. In all Avatarism, there are always ad hominem arguments and circular reasoning.”

We do not have to take such reports on faith or create complex imaginative scenarios. All we have to do is open our mouths to speak and witness the reaction from Bloomington that persists to this very day. When I proposed to make a critical examination of the nature and problems that arise from the consideration of the pneumatic personality of Shaykh Isa in relation to his primordial practices and tantric teachings, the response is clear: By virtue of questioning these truths, you are overestimating yourself and underestimating Shaykh Isa. This demonstrates a lack of judgement and humility, a hidden spiritual pride, a disqualifying lack of faqr, and ultimately a temptation from the devil.

My most recent encounter with this perspective was not quite as gentle. Throughout one of the most central messages in that exchange, after having had my request for a personal engagement of my reflections repeatedly ignored, I was then subjected to the most grievous insults upon my person under the guise of pious and concerned spiritual advice, not once, but twice. These included,

"temptation by the devil, overconfidence, lack of qualified peers, ugliness, indelicacy, hostility, lack of guidance, lack of adab, spiritual immaturity, lack of discretion, lack of delicacy, lack of sincerity, lack of piety, ignorance, rebelliousness, stubbornness, pride, individualistic activism, insufficient exposure to people of high spiritual calibre, and deficiency of self-criticism."

Many of these perspectives are conducive to the climate of ideological totalism which the interested reader may do well to review and even perhaps use as a basis of systematic self-examination. I personally found such an exercise to be humbling, enlightening, and to a degree liberating. (see Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Jay Lifton, Chapter 22: Ideological Totalism) Ultimately, all of these perspectives may be traced back to precedents set by Shaykh Isa himself as evidenced by the following:


Commentary of the Shaykh Concerning an Absurd and Harmful Opinion:

Some have put forth the opinion that there is a flaw in the personality of the Shaykh which is supposedly responsible for a certain crisis in the Tariqah.

To this, one must give the following answers:

It is impossible that a man of the Shaykh’s quality,

1. Who has founded the Tariqah
2. Who has written some twenty doctrinal books of the first import,
3. Who has written hundreds of spiritual texts,
4. Who has brought the celestial treasure of the Six Themes
5. Who has received extraordinary graces from the Blessed Virgin, for himself and for the entire Tariqah, --
It is impossible that a man of this quality be affected with a flaw having as its effect the most serious disorders in his Community, supposing they are real.

To believe this is

1. Either to be stupid
2. Or else to be under a satanic influence.


All of the foregoing is a stark contrast to what I have been exposed to within my own circle of friends who base themselves upon the emulation of the personality of the Prophet Muhammad – may peace and blessing be upon him. The following story from the life of Allama Tabataba’i is particularly illustrative of the general nature of my experience.

“Allāma once told us that he visited the outskirts of Tehran one summer, where ideas of Communism and Materialism were prevalent. Some of those who held materialist views wanted to freely discuss their thoughts with him. He went to them and participated in a discussion from morning until evening that may have lasted 8 hours. He said, “I discussed with this one individual using the view point of burhāne sidīdqiyīn (a Shi’ite philosophical proof of the existence of God)”. Thereafter, this individual who was a Marxist saw one of his peers on a street in Tehran who asked him, “where did you reach in your visit and discussion with Agha Tabātabā’ī?” He replied, “Agha Tabātabā’ī has made me a monotheist. He spent eight hours in discussion with us, and in the process he made one communist a believer in God and one Marxist a monotheist. He listened to every non-believer’s insult yet never took offense and never quarreled”.

This is precisely the type of guidance that I receive at the hands of my Murshid and other friends. They listen to my thoughtful considerations patiently and without argumentation or reprimand, for years as in this particular case, and gently assist me in coming to an understanding for myself based upon the perspective that it is ultimately me alone who will be held accountable for my thoughts and deeds and for the condition of my own soul when I stand before God.

My Bloomington interlocutor expressed the opinion that shaytan seems particularly active against the fuqara and later extended this by stating (I paraphrase) “the devil is constantly assaulting the fuqara to temptation. It is possible that any thought that enters into our minds could have been placed there by shaytan. The only way to ensure that our thoughts are not the result of shaytan is to objectify them and communicate them to someone more spiritually advanced than we are. This is why we begin every activity by saying – I seek refuge from the accursed satan.”

I casually replied that Shaytan has never seemed to play so central a role in my spiritual life and later recalled to mind that Shaykh Isa once related that according to a Shadhili tradition, based upon a vision of the Imam Al-Shadhili, that “no faqir who is faithful to the Shadhiliyyah Tariqah will be touched by the fire, and that according to the Qur’an, Maryam and her descendants are protected against Satan.” (Text 619)

I cannot help but wonder if, in consciously and deliberately moving beyond the boundaries of the Sharia and the Shadhili heritage rooted in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet, the effect has not been that for some of them, the presence of shaytan and his activity has become all the more palpable as result.

The Clothing of Taqwa is Better

The following is a summary and paraphrase of a response to my points concerning the Tantric teaching made by a well-known scholar and apologist of the Bloomington perspective:

When we enter upon the path of the Tariqah and gain certitude of spiritual realities, Shaytan seeks to lead us astray by casting doubt upon the doctrine, method, or personality of Shaykh Isa.

The tantric practices are not a requirement of the Tariqah but rather exist as an option for highly qualified disciples with an innate affinity for them.

To doubt or criticize Shaykh Isa demonstrates a lack of good judgement and humility, as he is the source of certitude and good judgement.

According to Sufi Tradition, the Invocation induces the desire to be naked.

Clothing is secondary and superficial. The Quran attests to the superiority of sacred nudity when it states that the clothing of Taqwa is better.

The tawaf was originally performed naked. This was replaced with the ihram as a result of the fall.

Shaykh Isa's tantric practices were part of a right and duty to God to manifest the Haqiqa so they represent a transcendence rather than a transgression of the Sharia such as in the example given by Khidr.

"Only the man who has given himself to God in his heart knows what he has a right or a duty to give to the world." We should have a certitude of the legitimacy of this transcendence based on our experience of the veracity of other aspects of Shaykh Isa's message and method.

Like Jesus, Shaykh Isa's primordiality represents the outward transgression and inner fulfillment of the sharia. The sharia is being more faithfully fulfilled than undermined.

The humble conclusion is that Shaykh Isa had a Khidri initiation from a man in big red boots.

The experience of Primordiality afforded by the Shaykh to a small group of disciples in Bloomington causes powerful reverberations throughout the cosmos, serves as an antidote to modern perversions, purifies the world, and serves as a prefiguration of paradise.

The need for sobriety keeps this Primordiality from being abused and going wild as a new age religion.

We need to express gratitude and pray to God to show us the legitimacy of these practices. Doubt concerning their veracity comes from Shaytan.

I was originally scandalized by my experience in Bloomington until I prayed to the Shaykh for guidance and was directed to his writing "In the Wake of the Fall" where I read the passage, “what the Revelations ask of us and what Heaven imposes or inflicts on us is what we are in reality, whether we think so or not; we know it in our heart of hearts, if only we can detach ourselves a little from the monstrous accumulation of false images entrenched in our minds."

Shaykh Isa was prelapsarian and can not be judged according to the criteria of fallen man.

Desmond's points are not even worth considering because the are a distraction from Shaytan.


(Excerpt from Correspondence - March 2015)

I had thought to leave these matters well alone some months ago following my correspondence with Sidi [...]. He seemed to have a very satisfactory resolution, supported by our subsequent conversation, wherein it is possible to follow the formal teachings of Shaykh Isa with regard to the doctrine and method of the Tariqah without necessarily taking his personality and his actions, whatever they might actually have been, into consideration. However, these matters seem to keep resurfacing, first through the Falcon of Truth incident, and now within my own [...]. Each time I revisit them, I discover a new tension within my soul, a lingering doubt perhaps, or the perception of some limitation in the teachings. Sidi [...] attributes this to a lack of judgement and humility, a hidden spiritual pride, and seems to provide me with the following options, either renounce your effort toward discernment and surrender to the truth of the Shaykh's message in its totality or succumb to the whisperings of Shaytan which are veiling you from it.

During my previous considerations of these controversies, it was a vision of the persistence of the Prophet – alayhi salatu wa-salam – and the love and certitude which I have possessed toward him from the very beginning which has allowed me to continue peacefully in my endeavors as well as the fact that all aspects of my spiritual life ultimately issue from God through him and that anything else, anything questionable was non-essential.

However, the more I am exposed to these controversies, the more it seems that I am called to question my own ability to make sound judgements, for as Sidi [...] has said, who am I to question such exalted teachers, paragons of virtue and intelligence. This can be nothing more that a manifestation of hidden pride, a disqualifying lack of faqr, or at worst, a temptation from the devil.

As I would be the first to acknowledge my incompetence and inexperience compared to all of those authorities whom I hold in such high regard, Shaykh Isa and Sidi [...] included, a strong source of my hesitation in surrendering to such eloquent arguments lays in the very fact of their existence. It seems that many fuqara have been initially scandalized by what has happened and continues to happen in Bloomington, and that it requires extensive justification, rationalization, comparison, nuanced definition of terms, reevaluation and reformulation of principles, and ultimately a sign from heaven to change their minds and allow them to embrace what was formerly regarded as scandalous.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Totalism and Tautology: The Roots of the Problem

as-salaam alaykum. I apologize for the shock and the forum should be back up soon. I shut it down because it was (inadvertently) brought to my attention by a friend that I have developed certain cultish tendencies as they pertain to the traditional school. The investigation of ideological totalism amounts to an inquiry into the psychology of cults and I am investigating the extent to which it is applicable to me so that I do not cause harm to others through my thoughts and writings. I recognize that Lifton has his limitations but I also believe that he makes some useful points. I am almost finished with my investigation / self-examination and would be happy to attempt to answer any questions anyone might have.


as-salaam alaykum. Thank you for your thoughts. Sidi [...], fanaticism is exactly right, but it is my own fanaticism than I intended to turn a critical eye toward. Sidi [...], your remark that even a valid doctrine and practice can take on cult-like tendencies is precisely what I had in mind when I said that Lifton's criteria had their limitations. In fact, it seems that these tendencies arise organically whenever a group possesses centralized authority and dogma. The question then becomes a matter of whether or not those tendencies are being channelled in service to exploitation, abuse, and indoctrination.

The present investigation was brought about by the realization that despite my exposure to extensive documents, photographs, and correspondence detailing aberrant behaviors on the part of Shaykh Isa such as nudism, syncretic psuedo-indian rituals, and the sexual exploitation of disciples, all of which are accompanied by elaborate justifications, that I have not been honest with myself or with others. I have consistently employed denial, deflection, and rationalization when exposed to these topics. I do not believe that he molested children as I have not encountered any evidence of this, but as pertains to these occurrences I believe that I have succumbed to a very serious blind spot preventing me from exercising the level of discernment of which I am generally capable.

I have no doubts concerning the integrity and veracity of my present affiliations, teachers, doctrines, or methods. I have come to believe that my inability to evaluate this evidence objectively and honestly is due primarily to a fear of being ostracized by my community, labelled as a malcontent or agitator, and ultimately rejected by the very people that I admire and respect the most. As you can imagine, this has created a significant inner tension, one of which I was not fully aware until my recent conversation with my friend.

Liftons descriptions of the criteria of the "Demand for Purity," "Sacred Science," and the "Dispensing of Existence" are very pertinent to the above considerations. Although metaphysics is beyond reproach, as everyone seems to be in agreement, to doubt Shaykh Isa's character casts aspersion upon his entire life's work causing much additional inner tension.


After the question of purported scandalous photos came out I also thought to myself that if any of this is true then an opening to it must me present somewhere is his teachings. What I found, mostly surveying his books was a tautological reading capable of being applied to justify virtually anything. Here are some thoughts on what I designated the Tantric element of his teaching. Please forgive the shoddy documentation


The following are a selection of quotations that I previously compiled from Schuon's books concerning the tantric element of his teaching. I have prefaced these with a summary of the teaching and its ramifications as I understand them.

Framed as an argument, the Shaykh's Tantric perspective can be summarized as follows.

1. The Pnuematic, Primordial Man, Sage, or Minor Avatara possesses provisional infallibility. He is a priori incapable of either intellectual or volitional error.

2. The minor Avatara possesses a provisional prophetic function, i.e. he can transmit a specific revelation as opposed to a general or universal revelation. As such he is not inherently bound by the conventional morality of a given general revelation and can himself serve as the arbiter of moral judgement possessed as he is of provisional infallibility over such matters.

3. By virtue of the dual qualities of Maya, the cosmos possesses the simultaneous possibility of veiling and unveiling the beauty of the creator depending upon the innate disposition and intention of the participant. The quality of beauty and correlatively any natural pleasure arising from the senses possesses thereby the characteristic of either seductive sensuality or liberating theophany.

4. All sensual pleasure indulged in by the pneumatic, regardless of appearances and the position of this indulgence in relation to the conventional morality dictated by revealed laws, is de facto theophanic and liberating because he is both incapable of vice and because he is a law unto himself, or rather has an infallible law issuing from his Self.

Most of the undisputed ambiguities surrounding Schuon can be referred back to one or more of these premises. It seems to me that a final reconciliation can only be made by taking a leap of faith and acknowledging both his moral incorruptibility and provisional infallibility. The only other alternatives are to either reject this claim as false either a priori (disagreeing with the premises) or a posteriori (disagreeing with their application to Schuon), or otherwise by discounting them altogether by categorizing them as falling beyond the sphere of personal relevance.


as-salaam alaykum. Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect upon what I have written and thank you also for bringing to my attention that most beautiful Hindu treatise which I will most certainly be returning to. Please understand that it is not my intention to damn Shaykh Isa. Rather my aim is primarily to reconcile an apparent contradition between his teachings and his actions and ultimately to relieve the tension within my own soul. Incidentally you have inadvertently struck upon the heart of the matter in the following comment, particularly in its implications ...

This is essentially a restatement of my first point that the pneumatic is incapable of intellectual or volitional error by definition.

The natural corollary to this is that if it appears that the pneumatic is exhibiting a behavior that is contrary to his nature, it is an illusion.

In Shaykh Isa's words:

"We mentioned above the isolation of the mancenter in the face of the world's absurdity; now the fact that his behavior can be like that of the manperiphery may give the impression of solidarity with the worldly ambience, but this is a deceptive appearance, since similar ways of acting can hide dissimilar intentions."

Or again more explicitly in text 1075:

"It may happen that the pure pneumatic will act in a manner foreign to a particular religious perspective and to particular prescriptions, but it cannot happen that he act in a manner contrary to the nature of things, for he bears the essential, universal and primordial Law in the depths of his own heart. For this very reason, deviation or corruption is in his case impossible, whatever appearances from a particular limited perspective may be."

Where the logic becomes problematic for me is in the fourth point: that the proof of the goodness, beauty, and truth of something is in the fact that the pneumatic experiences it as such. The pneumatic would not perceive it as such if it were not actually so because he is not capable of intellectual or volitional error by definition.

In Shaykh Isa's words:

"Once again, the integration of the agreeable into spirituality is not gratuitous and could not be: on the one hand, the interiorizing experience of beauty presupposes nobleness of soul, which is no small matter, and on the other hand, the analogous experience of sensorial pleasure demands temperance, hence a sober character that does not admit of any excess. In the case of beauty, the complementary moral condition is analogous to the content, for only a beautiful soul has the right to a beautiful experience."

Now, I am by no means an ascetic and I believe that I appreciate the theophanic quality of nature both in terms of beauty of form and of natural pleasures including sexual pleasure. However, certain of Shaykh Isa's behaviors appear to proceed in excess of this involving as they do the sexual exploitation of disciples.

For example, it seems to be well established that Shaykh Isa took some of his disciples wives as his own. One explanation, according to a document in circulation called "Points of Reference" is that the wives' marriages were unsatisfactory and effectively terminated without however being formally divorced. They remained with their respective ex-husbands and children but were now wedded to Shaykh Isa in accordance with celestial signs, the marriages of which were presumably consummated.

According to the conventional morality of religion, these actions reflect aberration and exploitation. If the above explanation is adhered to, the appearance of immorality is an illusion because Shaykh Isa, as a pneumatic is incapable of intellectual or volitional error. This tautology has manifold applications and can be used to justify anything to someone who accepts as axiomatic that Shaykh Isa was a pneumatic and beyond reproach for in his words, "the acts of [such a] man are golden because his substance is golden, and because everything that he touches is golden; this obviously excludes intrinsically bad actions, whether in regard to God or in regard to one's neighbor."

In the past I have chosen to deny, deflect, or rationalize these considerations to avoid the tension of this line of questioning. I believe that it is not possible for me to do so without being dishonest.

I pray that you have a safe journey and thank you again for taking the time to correspond with me.


as-salaam alaykum. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is exceedingly helpful to recognize that I have not had to shoulder this burden alone by having my own conflicts both confirmed and described with a depth and lucidity that far exceeds my own capabilities of expression. In this there is already an ease of much of the tension that I have described. You have also greatly instilled in me the hope that with the aid of friends such as you that I too may regain my equilibrium and come to achieve a satisfactory resolution to what has been troubling me.

I am very grateful for the openness of your engagement and generous use of your time.

(August 2014)