Laurence Galian: She is the holiest and most secret inwardness of Allah

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  • February 19, 2012
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    “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. Sufism, or as some would define it “mystical Islam” has always honored the Divine Feminine. Of course, Allah has both masculine and feminine qualities, but to the Sufi, Allah has always been the Beloved and the Sufi has always been the Lover. The Qur’an, referring to the final Day, perhaps divulges a portion of this teaching: “And there is manifest to them of God what they had not expected to see.” ” – Laurence Galian

    “Muhammad al-Harraq (d. 1845): “Seekest thou Laila [Divine Reality], when she is manifest within thee? Thou deemest her to be other, but she is not other than thou.”

    Jalal al-Din Rumi (d.1273): “Though the many ways [diverse religions] are various, the goal is one. Do you not see there are many roads to the Kaaba?”

    In some Sufi orders the goal of the mystical quest is “personified as a woman, usually named Laila which means `night’… this is the holiest and most secret inwardness of Allah… in this symbolism Laila and haqiqa (Divine Reality) are one.” This, and the above statements appear to be distinctly contrary to Muslim orthodoxy in their blatant echoes of Eastern mystic religions. Yet, for Sufis this is not a problem.  As Ibn `Arabi stated,

    My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christians, and a temple for idols and the pilgrims Ka`ba and the tables of the Torah, and the book of the Koran. I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love’s camels take, that is my religion and faith.

    Another Sufi saint, Mahmud Shabistari, in his work Gulshan-i Raz (The Mystic Rose Garden) concurs, declaring,

    “what is mosque, what is synagogue, what is fire temple? … `I’ and `You’ are the Hades veil between them.. When this veil is lifted up from before you, there remains not the bond of sects and creeds.”
    Thus, not only has Sufism been influenced by other religions, but its mystic quest for spirituality has led it to embrace all sorts of religion, as abundantly shown in the writings of the great Sufi saints. To try to deny this as a scholar is incomprehensible. Yet, those scholars who are sympathetic towards Islam, as previously shown, have a marked tendency to minimize or altogether ignore these facts.”
    William Van Doodewaard, Sufism: The Mystical Side of Islam
    (The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada: 1996)

    The Lady of the Resurrection (Khatun-i Qiyamat), who will on the Resurrection Day be the helper of human beings.

    “Sufism cherishes the esoteric secret of woman, even though Sufism is the esoteric aspect of a seemingly patriarchal religion. Muslims pray five times a day facing the city of Makkah. Inside every Mosque is a niche, or recess, called the Mihrab – a vertical rectangle curved at the top that points toward the direction of Makkah. The Sufis know the Mihrab to be a visual symbol of an abstract concept: the transcendent vagina of the female aspect of divinity. In Sufism, woman is the ultimate secret, for woman is the soul. Toshihiko Izutsu writes, “The wife of Adam was feminine, but the first soul from which Adam was born was also feminine.”

    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). Relevant to the focus of this paper is that Sufis have always described this theophanic experience as the vision of a woman, the female figure as the object of ru’yah (vision of Allah).

    There was a great Sufi Saint who was born in 1165 C.E. Besides Shi’a Muslims, numberless Sunni Ulemas called him “The Greatest Sheikh” (al- Shaykh al-Akbar).[18] His name was Muyiddin ibn al-`Arabi. He said, “To know woman is to know oneself,” and “Whoso knoweth his self, knoweth his Lord.” Ibn al-’Arabi wrote a collection of poems entitled The Tarjuman al-ashwaq. These are love poems that he composed after meeting the learned and beautiful Persian woman Nizam in Makkah. The poems are filled with images pointing to the Divine Feminine. His book Fusus al-hikam, in the last chapter, relates that man’s supreme witnessing of Allah is in the form of the woman during the act of sexual union. He writes,

    “The contemplation of Allah in woman is the highest form of contemplation possible: As the Divine Reality is inaccessible in respect of the Essence, and there is contemplation only in a substance, the contemplation of God in women is the most intense and the most perfect; and the union which is the most intense (in the sensible order, which serves as support for this contemplation) is the conjugal act.” Allah as the Beloved in Sufi literature, the ma`shuq, is always depicted with female iconography….

    Among the Ghulat there is much respect paid to the Divine Feminine. In the Ghulat group the Ahl-i-Haqq (“the People of Truth”), the Divine Feminine appears as the Khatun-i Qiyamat (Lady of Resurrection) who also is manifested as the mysterious angel Razbar (also Ramzbar or Remzebar). The writer, Frédéric Macler, claims that the name Razbar is of Arabic origin and means “secret of the creator”. The term qiyama literally means, “rising” of the dead, and allegorically, it implies an idea denoting the rising to the next spiritual stage, and qiyamat-i qubra (great resurrection) means an attainment of the highest degree when a man becomes free from the ties of external laws, whom he shackles and transfigures into spiritual substance, which rejoins its divine sources. “The King of the World was sitting on the water with His four associate angels (chahar malak-i muqarrab) when they suddenly saw the Pure Substance of Hadrat-i Razbar, the Khatun-i Qiyamat (Lady of the Resurrection). She brought out from the sea a round loaf of bread (kulucha), and offered it to the King of the World. By His order they formed a devotional assembly (jam), distributed the bread, offered prayers and exclaimed `Hu!’ Then the earth and the skies became fixed, the skies being that kulucha.

    Another rendition of the emergence of the Lady of the Resurrection is as follows:

    “After this the Holder of the World and Creator of Man looked upon `Azra’il with the eye of benefaction, and `Azra’il became split into two parts, one exactly like the other, and from between these parts a drop of light emerged in the form of a loaf of kulucha bread. The Creator then said, I appoint that person (surat) who became separated from `Azra’il to be the Lady of the Resurrection (Khatun-i Qiyamat), who will on the Resurrection Day be the helper of human beings.” “

    Laurence Galian, The Centrality of the Divine Feminine in Sufism

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