The Light April 2018 04

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English organ of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. Presenting the Islam taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) - liberal, inclusive, tolerant, peaceful and rational.

ِ ی م الرَّحم

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ِ

سب اہللِ‏ الرَّْحم ٰ

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The Light

International Organ of the Centre for the Worldwide

Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam

2018

April

2016

April

Germany

Guyana

India

Sweden

Suriname

The only Islamic organisation upholding the finality of prophethood.

Webcasting on the world’s first real-time Islamic service at

Editors

- Amir Aziz

- Abd ul Muqtadir Gordon

- Gowsia Saleem & - Prof. Shahab

Shabbir

- Kaleem Ahmed

- Robbert Bipat M.D, PhD

South Africa-Ebrahim Mohamed

UK

USA

- Shahid Aziz & - Mustaq Ali

- Zainab Ahmad

Contents

The Call of the Messiah 2

Mysticism and Sexuality Sufi Thought and

Life by Valerie Hoffman-Ladd 3

Salaat Postures and Bible 12

www.virtualmosque.co.uk

Broadcasts from and about us

‣ www.virtualmosque.co.uk

‣ Audio of the Holy Quran

‣ Iqbal praises Hazrat Mirza Ghulam

Ahmad

‣ Sunni Muslims die for the British

Empire

Interesting external links

The Holy Prophet (s) and George Washington.

The Muslim Theory of Evolution

The Holy Quran is correct. Ants do Talk to

Each Other.

Broadcasts (UK time)

1. Skype Urdu lecture: Sunday 09:00

2. Live on www.virtualmosque.co.uk

‣ Friday Sermon 13:00

‣ First Sunday of month lecture 15:00.

3. Radio Virtual Mosque

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‣ .More About the Ants.

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such material and provide a rebuttal. Ignoring it

will not make it go away.

We welcome all scholarly contributions to

The Light.

I Shall Love All Mankind.


April 2018 The

Light 2

The Call of the

Messiah

by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam

Ahmad

The Promised Messiah and Mahdi

(Editor’s note: Any quotations from the Quran

are translated from the author’s explanations,

nd are not literal translations of the verse

quoted. This extract is from the English translation

of a lecture he delivered in the city of Sialkot,

now in Pakistan, taken from the Lahore Ahmadiyya

publication ‘Essence of Islam’.)

Alleged Divinity of Jesus

The alleged Divinity of Jesus is sometimes

supported on the ground that Jesus called himself

the son of God or that he is so designated in

some book. This is an idea which deserves to be

laughed at. In the Bible, many men are designated

as the sons of God and to some even the

epithet God is applied. They all, therefore, belong

to the same category and one of them cannot

become a God to the

exclusion of all others.

Even if the title son of

God had not been used

for anyone besides Jesus,

it would have been

absurd to interpret it literally

and draw from it

an argument for the divinity of Jesus, for such

metaphors abound in the Word of God. But

when the title on whose basis divinity is

claimed for Jesus is freely applied to others in

the Bible, it ceases to have the slightest force as

an argument for his divinity. And if it has, it, at

the same time, proves the divinity of all those to

whom it is applied. In short, the plan suggested

by the Christian belief should not be depended

upon for salvation, for it fails to provide the true

remedy for sin. On the other hand, it is itself a

sin that a man should commit suicide thinking

that others would be saved thereby. I can say on

oath that Jesus did not offer himself to be crucified,

but he was in the hands of his enemies who

subjected him to all sorts of cruelties. He prayed

to God to save him from the accursed death on

the cross and wept the whole night long. Then

was he heard because of his righteousness and

We do admit that Jesus was

a servant of God and one of

the perfect ones whom God

purified with His own hands.

I Shall Love All Mankind.

his prayer was accepted and he was saved from

death upon the cross, as appears from the Gospels

themselves. It is, therefore, a false accusation

against Jesus that he committed suicide by

designedly subjecting himself to death. Moreover,

reason itself condemns the theory that Peter

should be cured of his headache by John's

knocking out his brains. We do admit that Jesus

was a servant of God and one of the perfect ones

whom God purified with His own hands. But, he,

or any other prophet, cannot be made a God on

the strength of words spoken of him in any holy

book. I have personal experience in this matter

and in the Word of God revealed to me I find

words of honour and dignity used of me which

I have not met with in any Gospel as used concerning

Jesus Christ. Can I then assert on the

strength of such words that I am God or son of

God? Far be it from me or any prophet of God to

make such a blasphemous assertion.

As to the teachings contained in the Gospels,

I am of opinion that they are imperfect. A

perfect code of ethics is that which is calculated

to develop all the moral

faculties of man and

does not lay stress upon

one side of human nature

only. I assure the

gentlemen present that

such perfect teaching is

contained only in the

Holy Quran, for in every matter it adopts the

mean path, which is the path of truth and wisdom.

For instance, the Gospel says: "Whosoever

shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him

the other also." But the Holy Quran does not

teach us unconditional forgiveness on all occasions.

It directs us to see the occasion first,

whether it requires forbearance or revenge, forgiveness

or punishment. It is evident that the

latter is the proper course for a man to follow,

and its observance is necessary for the social

life of man. No society can live on the principles

taught by the Gospel nor can any Christian society

be pointed out which should have ever acted

on the turn-to-him-the-other-also text. Again

the Gospel says that no one should look “on a

woman to lust after her,” but the Holy Quran

tells us that a man should not unnecessarily

look upon other women whether with lust or


April 2018 The

Light 3

The Holy Qur'an points out to us

the clear ways which can make

a man attain to a true

knowledge of God and fill him

with such fear of Him as keeps

him away from sins.

Mysticism and Sexuality in

Sufi Thought and Life

by Valerie Hoffman-Ladd

Source: Mystics Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3 (September

1992), pp. 82-93 Published by:

Penn State University Press

without lust, for this habit will after all make

him stumble. On such occasions, the Quran requires

that a man's eyes should be half closed,

for this is the only way in which a man can remain

pure in heart. Perhaps the advocates of a

misnamed liberty would object to such a

course, but experience shows that this is the

only right course. The free intermingling of the

two sexes and their freely casting looks at each

other are productive of great mischief and no

good has resulted from them. To allow men and

women whose hearts are not yet purified, and

who are yet under the control of their sensual

passions, to freely mingle with, and look at, each

other is to intentionally push them down into

the pit. The Quranic teaching in the attainment

of a condition in which a man does not venture

upon transgression and his love of God becomes

so great as to suppress his sensual desires, and

the realization of such a state depends upon a

perfect knowledge of God. The Holy Quran

points out to us the clear ways which can make

a man attain to a true knowledge of God and fill

him with such fear of Him as keeps him away

from sins. By following the Holy Quran a man

becomes the recipient of Divine revelation, sees

the heavenly signs, receives the knowledge of

future from God, has a zeal in his heart for union

with God which he prefers to every other connections

receives knowledge from God beforehand

of the acceptance of his prayers and a

mighty torrent of Divine knowledge flows in his

heart which sweeps away all sinful tendencies

before it. But when we go to the Gospel, it points

out a method for release from the bondage of

sin which is contrary to reason and does nothing

to remove the causes of sin. (Return to contents)

I Shall Love All Mankind.

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717124

(Note: There is a great misunderstanding

among the Muslims about the position

of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

They fail to realise that he was a sufi

who claimed to be a reformer in Tariqa

(mysticism), as well as Sharia (formal

aspects of Islam). It was common for

the Sufis to use as metaphor the relationship

between a man and a woman

to try and describe the relationship between

a man and Allah. The Holy

Quran refers to this as well. It states

that when a man becomes truly righteous,

he becomes Mary and is born

again as a truly holy person. We produce

below a paper by a non-Ahmadi

American scholar, which discusses the

use by the Sufis (such as ibn-i Arabi, Al

Ghazali ect.) of such metaphorical terminology.

It was not written as a rebuttal

to the objections against Hazrat

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad but serves this

purpose as well.)

In 1982, a British sociologist wrote of his

amazement to discover that a Lebanese Sufi

shaykh's mystical insight often had to do with

knowledge of his followers' sexual conduct

(Gilsenan 116-120). In my own research among

the Sufis of Egypt, 1 I found that a true shaykh’s

inner knowledge included not only this, but the

spiritual meaning of the sexual act itself, a secret

that is guarded by the shaykh from all but a

few of his followers who are spiritually mature

enough to accept it. Revelation of the secret to

those who are not spiritually ready renders a

person susceptible to divine wrath in this world

and in the world to come. Far from being a separate

dimension of life, sexuality is linked to

mystical experience in a number of ways in the

philosophy of Ibn al-Arabi, which has exerted


April 2018 The

Light 4

considerable influence on the perspective of

contemporary Egyptian Sufis, and Sufi attitudes

toward sexuality are distinct

from those of other Muslims

in some important aspects.

This paper will explore the development

of Sufi attitudes toward

sexuality and its relationship

with the spiritual life.

In the earliest phase of Sufism, that of the

ascetics, celibacy was favoured by many who

believed marriage, family, and other social relationships

would distract them from absolute

devotion to God alone. The early Sufis denied

themselves all physical comforts, reduced their

worldly possessions to an absolute minimum,

and deprived themselves of sleep in order to

pray and recite the Quran at night. Credit for

transforming Sufism into an ecstatic love mysticism

is usually given to a woman, Rabia al Adawiyya,

who lived in Iraq and died in 801. For

her, God was the Beloved who so filled her heart

that she had room for no other, not even the

Prophet. She closed her shutters in springtime,

lest the beauty of the flowers distract her from

the beauty of her Beloved. She refused all offers

of marriage, preferring to devote herself exclusively

to God. In words that indicate the sublimation

of sexual desire, she addresses her Lord:

“Oh my Lord, the stars are shining, and the eyes

of men are closed, and kings have shut their

doors, and every lover is alone with his beloved,

and here I am alone with Thee” (Smith 1928,

22). In Sufi thought after Rabia, the theme of

God as Beloved became standard.

Rabia is only one of a large number of

women who participated in early Sufism. The

majority of them were celibates and practiced

extreme forms of asceticism. By maintaining a

celibate lifestyle, they rejected the guardianship

of men and the requirement of obedience

to men, as well as the burdens and responsibilities

of being a wife and mother. Extreme abstinence

from food also inhibits menstruation,

and, under Islamic law, women are banned from

prayer during menstruation. Fasting, then, becomes

a tool for ensuring their constant access

to the presence of God on a par with men (Elias

210-211).

I Shall Love All Mankind.

But the archetypal Sufi was a man. Sufi ethics

came to be known as futuwwa, “young manliness,”

based on the

word fata, meaning

"young man," literally

a code of chivalry

that demanded courage,

self-denial, and

heroic generosity. It

is significant that the Sufi biographer, Fariduddin

'Attar (d. 1220), listed Rabi'a al`Adawiyya

among the men, rather than among the women.

He explains that it is not the outward form that

counts, but the intention of the heart, and said,

“When a woman becomes a ‘man’ in the path of

God, she is a man and one cannot any more call

her a woman” (`Attar 40). Although this "compliment"

paid to Rabi'a implies the degradation

of the female sex as a whole and suggests that

true spirituality is normally found only among

men, it also indicates that the sex of the body is

not a bar-rier to the inspiration and grace of

God.

Credit for transforming Sufism

into an ecstatic love mysticism

is usually given to a woman,

Rabi`a al Adawiyya,

Although celibacy was preferred by many

early Sufis, men as well as women, this preference

raised some undesirable comparisons

with Christian monks and nuns, and implied a

rejection of the Prophet's Sunna, or exemplary

model, as a married man. The Quran itself rejects

monasticism as an invention of the Christians

(57:27), and according to a hadith, 2 the

Prophet declared that there is no monasticism

in Islam. In one anecdote, on hearing that one of

his followers had taken a vow of celibacy, the

Prophet rebukes him: “So you have made up

your mind to be one of the brethren of Satan! If

you want to be a Christian monk, join them

openly. If you are one of us, you must follow our

Sunna (example); and our Sunna is married life”

(Goldziher 122). And in another hadith: “Marriage

is my Sunna, and who-ever dislikes my

Sunna dislikes me” (Ghazali 4:97). Marriage

came to be regarded by many Muslims as a religious

duty. Sufis were not unanimous on this issue,

and we have two very interesting discussions

on the topic in the literature that give us

an idea of the debates on the subject that took

place in Sufi circles. The first is by al-Hujwiri,

who died about 1071, and whose treatise on Sufism,

Unveiling the Veiled, is the earliest written


April 2018 The

Light 5

in the Persian language. The second is by al-

Ghazali (d. 1111), whose magnum opus, The Revival

of the Religious Sciences, is part of the

standard Sufi library in the Arab world.

For both men, the Sufi is assumed to be

male, and the question at hand is whether marriage

enhances the Sufi's ability to devote himself

to God or constitutes an undesirable distraction.

While admitting that marriage is permissible

for all men and women, and even obligatory

for those who are otherwise unable to

abstain from illicit intercourse, al-Hujwiri favours

celibacy, provided the Sufi is able to quell

his sexual desires. He advocates hunger as an effective

tool toward this end. In his discussion,

sexual intercourse appears as a somewhat

shameful though necessary means toward the

goal of procreation. Although the Prophet married,

says Hujwiri, the desire to emulate him

should not lead the Sufi to seek worldly wealth

or unlawful gain in order to please his wife, and

he must not allow pleasures

to pre-occupy him. And, he

comments, “In our time it is

impossible for anyone to

have a suitable wife, whose

wants are not excessive and

whose demands are not unreasonable.

Therefore, many persons have

adopted celibacy and observe the prophetic

hadith, ‘the best of men in latter days will be

those who are light of back,’ that is, who have

neither wife nor child. It is the unanimous opinion

of the shaykhs of this sect that the best and

most excellent Sufis are the celibates, if their

hearts are uncontaminated and if their natures

are not inclined to sins and lusts” (363). From

the time of creation to the present day, he

claims, all mischiefs, worldly and religious, have

been caused by women (364). He himself is

grateful to have been enabled to live a celibate

life, and says, “Sufism was founded on celibacy;

the introduction of marriage brought about a

change. There is no flame of lust that cannot be

extinguished by strenuous effort, because,

whatever vice proceeds from yourself, you possess

the instrument that will remove it: another

is not necessary for that purpose” (364).

On the other hand, Ghazali, himself a married

man, states that marriage is approved in

I Shall Love All Mankind.

the Quran, and is a characteristic of the prophets.

He finds a preponderance of hadiths in favour

of marriage. Whereas Hujwiri felt that

marriage was not necessary to quell lust, Ghazali

regards human sexuality as an overwhelming

and potentially destructive force that must

be contained within marriage. The Prophet encouraged

Muslims to marry, for it averts the

eyes from temptation and encourages chastity,

and said, “whoever cannot, let him fast, for fasting

is a form of castration” (4:98). But, says

Ghazali, even fasting will not cause temptation

to cease for most men, unless it is combined

with bodily weakness and a deterioration of

health (4:108). Such is the value given to chastity

and the difficulty of maintaining it outside

marriage that “he who marries preserves half

his religion” (4:99). The Prophet is quoted as

saying, “If someone comes to you with whose

religion and trust-worthiness you are pleased,

get him married. If you do not, there will be discord

and great corruption in the earth” (4:98).

Ghazali quotes al-

The asceticism of the ascetic

is incomplete until

he marries

Junayd (d. 910), the

celebrated mystic of

Baghdad, as saying,

“I need sex just as I

need food” (4:109).

Muhammad's cousin, Ibn 'Abbas, is quoted as

saying, “The asceticism of the ascetic is incomplete

until he marries,” because only in marriage

will he be able to overcome his passion

and devote himself to God. Therefore, it is said

that a single prostration in prayer from a married

man is better than seventy prostrations

from a bachelor. A saying of another Companion

implies that the single state is shameful: “If I had

only ten more days to live I would want to

marry, so as not to meet God as a bachelor”

(4:99, 101). The pleasure that comes from sexual

intercourse is a foretaste of the pleasures of

Paradise, where, according to the Quran, chaste

virgins will be at the service of the believers;

sexual pleasure here on earth induces men to

serve God more in order to obtain those pleasures

(4:108). Although marriage has its pitfalls,

it also has a number of benefits, including procreation,

a legitimate release for sexual passions,

the revival of the soul after engaging in

the rigors of the spiritual life, having someone

to manage the household, and exercising the


April 2018 The

Light 6

soul by having the care of a family, fulfilling

one's obligations toward one's wives, having patience

with their morals, putting up with their

abuse, hastening to correct them, guiding them

in the way of religion,

striving to

earn legitimate

wages on their

behalf, and undertaking

the education

and discipline

of children

(4:103-114). To

endure suffering

from wives and children is equal to fighting the

jihad in the path of God (4:116). In all cases, for

Ghazali the traveller on the path of God is inevitably

a man, and women constitute either a help

or a hindrance to the spiritual life of men.

Although Sufi literature is directed toward a

male audience in a context where the superiority

of men over women is assumed to be the natural

order, some women nonetheless did participate

in the Sufi orders in medieval Islam. There

were Sufi teachers in Mamluke and Ottoman

times that catered to women, and some shaykhs

admitted women into their orders, although

this admittance and the participation of women

in dhikr, the distinctive Sufi ritual of chanting

the names of God, with special breath control

and movement, were denounced by other Sufis

(Winter 131; Abd al-Raziq 28-32). Rarely, a

woman might even become a shaykha herself,

such as Zaynab Fatima bint 'Abbas, shaykha of

the women's retreat house of the Baghdadi Sufi

order in Cairo, who was described by the historian

Maqrizi as “a religious scholar of great

knowledge, an ascetic content with little, a worshipper

and a preacher, earnest in good works

and exhortation” (Abd al-Raziq 28). According

to Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, there were women

shaykhas and scholars of the Law, most of them

widows or divorcees, who lived in extreme abstinence

and worship in Sufi hospices (Abd al-

Raziq 31). It is significant that at this later period

only women who had already completed

their duty of marriage were free to devote

themselves to the mystical life. The Maghribi

writer Ibn al-Hajj, who opposed popular religion

in general, criticized the Sufi women for

I Shall Love All Mankind.

raising their voices during the dhikr, for part of

the expected modesty of women was that no

one should hear their voices (Abd al-Raziq 32).

But if women were intended to be neither

seen nor heard, they

were nonetheless at

least implicitly the subject

of a great deal of Sufi

poetry which employed

romantic love and sexual

metaphor to express the

ineffable mystical experience.

Among the Sufis

poetry is part of normal discourse, and it is impossible

to read Sufi texts or sit among the Sufis

even today without encountering a good deal of

poetry, whether classical, colloquial or spontaneously

composed under inspiration. However,

the use of metaphors of romantic love and sexuality

in Sufi poetry aroused some controversy.

Many religious scholars inveighed against the

use of explicit romantic descriptions that were

alleged metaphors for the mystical experience

and said that listening to a description of a

beautiful object that is the source of evil is as

forbidden as looking at it or touching it (Hujwiri

398).

Early Sufis were wary of excessive indulgence

in sexual intercourse even within marriage

and emphasized that modesty is part of

faith. Annemarie Schimmel points out that disgust

with the world leads naturally to hatred for

women, since through woman this world is renewed

and continued. The nafs, the lower self

which must be subdued in order to free the

spirit to worship God, is feminine in the Arabic,

as is dunya, the lower world. These become personified

in images of an ugly old crone or a prostitute

who entices man and then leaves him in

his misery (Schimmel 124). Women are regarded

as impure, for menstrual blood and

postpartum blood prevent both prayer and sexual

union, and sexual intercourse requires major

ablution, an entire bath, for purification.

Sexual intercourse in most Islamic discourse

is simply the satisfaction of a physical

drive and a means to produce offspring. The

Quran tells Muslim men that women are their


April 2018 The

Light 7

fields, and they may go in to their fields whenever

they please (2:223). The sexual rights of

husbands are emphasized in Islamic literature:

if a woman refuses her husband's advances, the

angels curse her until morning. She must yield

to his desires, even if on the back

of a camel (Bukhari, Book 67, Ch.

85). Wives are simply functional

objects of the untamed lust of

men. As one hadith says rather

crudely: “If a woman approaches

you, she comes in the form of

Satan. If any one of you sees a woman that

pleases him, let him go to his wife; with her it

will be as with the other” (Ghazali 4:110). *

The great mystical philosopher Ibn al-Arabi

(1165-1240), however, goes beyond this merely

functional view of sexuality to discover mystical

significance in the sexual act itself. In his philosophy,

the Father Heaven-Mother Earth dualism,

which some believe to be absent in the monotheistic

religions (Parrinder 151), is revived.

Although scholars have been aware of at least

some of Ibn Arabi's statements affirming sexuality

and women and employing “pars-sexual

imagery” (Schimmel 129-30, Eli. 217, Rah-man

146), a full exposition of his doctrines regarding

sexuality has not been undertaken. Ibn Arabi's

philosophy holds to the essential unity of all being;

all existing things emerged from the "marriage"

of the divine spirit, which is male, with

Nature, which is female — or, in other passages,

from the combination of the divine names with

the elemental forms. Human marriage reflects

this cosmic marriage, and it is by virtue of this

correspondence that human sexuality derives

its sacredness. In fact, says Ibn al-'Arabi, Islamic

Law is the best law in marriage because it alone

has set the number of wives a man may marry

at four, which perfectly reflects the marriage of

the divine Spirit with the four elements to

produce its “children,” all the material existents

(1966a, 1:138). Therefore, far from being the

mere satisfaction of physical appetites, the sexual

union offers the gnostic the possibility of

true mystical insight.

* The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement strongly disagrees

with this interpretation of the Holy Quran

and the hadith. We believe that in all matters men

I Shall Love All Mankind.

In his major work, The Meccan Revelations,

Ibn Arabi states, “I used to hate women and sex

at the start of my entry into this path.” He continued

this way for eighteen years until he came

to contemplate the hadith in which Muhammad

“I feared God's wrath, for I

hated what God had made

beloved to his Prophet

(women).” – Ibn Arabi

says, “Three things

have been made

beloved to me in

this world of

yours: women,

perfume, and

prayer.” He noted

that Muhammad's love for women did not

spring from his own nature, but from God who

had made them beloved to him. Ibn Arabi

writes, “I feared God's wrath, for I hated what

God had made beloved to his Prophet.” He asked

God to remove this hatred from his heart, and

his prayer was answered. Indeed, he says, God

“made me the most compassionate of men with

them, and the most earnest to maintain their

rights, because I do this out of inner vision, from

God making them beloved to me, not a natural

love.” He states, “Whoever loves women as Muhammad

did, loves God” (1966a, 4:84). In his

later work, The Bezels of Wisdom, he contemplates

a particular wisdom contained in the divine

“word” expressed in each of the prophets.

His chapter on the Muhammadan word is a reflection

on this hadith concerning the Prophet's

love for women, perfume, and prayer (1966b,

1:214-226; 1980, 71-81).

In Ibn Arabi’s philosophy, God's Names are

manifested in creation, which then functions as

a mirror in which God sees himself. While all of

creation manifests the Names of God, the Perfect

Man, identified with the eternal Muhammadan

reality, a spiritual essence that is the

source of all prophethood, contains the totality

of these names. All other things in creation contain

only certain of the divine Names, but taken

together, the cosmos, like the Perfect Man, reflects

their totality. The Perfect Man is, therefore,

the microcosm — or, one could say, the cosmos

is a “macrohomo.” The Quran states that

God moulded Adam out of clay and breathed

into him of His spirit (32:9). God's longing for

and women are the same. Men also go to women

as Satan when, for example, they force themselves

upon women.


April 2018 The

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man is none other than a longing for his own

self, this spirit that is in man, for man is created

in his external aspect and is divine in his internal

aspect. Therefore, hadith says that God

made man in his own image. Just as man was

made in the image of God, woman was made in

the image of man (for Quran exegetes learned

from the Jews the story of Eve's creation from

Adam's rib). Woman is from man as man is from

God, and just as God longs for man because the

whole is drawn toward its part, so does man

long for woman, “as something yearns for itself,

while she feels longing for him as one longs for

that place to which one belongs” (1980, 274).

Furthermore, “love arises only for that from

which one has one’s being,” which for man is

God. That is why

Muhammad said that

God made women beloved

to him. “His love

is for his Lord in

Whose image he is,

this being so even as

regards his love for his

wife, since he loves

her through God's love for him, after the divine

manner.” When a man loves a woman, he desires

sexual union with her, because there is “no

greater union than that between the sexes”

(1980, 274). The goal of the Sufi is to be

annihilated in God, to achieve union with Him.

In sexual intercourse, the man is annihilated in

the woman, says Ibn al-Arabi, but this is in fact

a type of annihilation in God. The ritual washing

that is required after intercourse is a total purification

of his desire, for God is jealous that man

should desire any but Him. This purification by

ritual ablution enables man once again to behold

God in the woman (1980, 274). Yet, he says

in The Meccan Revelations, if a gnostic's passion

is divine and not carnal — that is, if his attachment

is to God and not to a temporal being—

then no purification is needed (1966a, 1:365). It

is not the act which is polluting, but carnal desire,

or “seeing oneself” instead of God.

Since the divine essence is transcendent

and inaccessible, man can only see God as he is

reflected in creation, and for man there is no

better way to contemplate God than in woman:

I Shall Love All Mankind.

“When man contemplates God in woman he

witnesses Him in a receptive mode [because

woman was created from man], while when he

contemplates (God] in himself, from the perspective

that woman appeared from him, he beholds

Him in an active mode. When, however, he

contemplates God in himself, without any regard

to what has come from Him, his witness is

in the receptive mode, without any intermediary.

So his contemplation of God in woman is

the most complete and perfect, because in this

way he contemplates God in both the active and

receptive modes, whereas by contemplating

God only in himself, he beholds him particularly

in a receptive mode. Because of this the Prophet

loved women, because of the perfection of his

witness of God in

Quran exegetes learned

from the Jews the story of

Eve's creation from Adam's

rib

them”

1:217).

(1966b,

Because God

contains the totality

of all the meanings

of the universe,

and indeed

is the place where opposites are conjoined, he is

both active/male and receptive/female. Therefore,

it is insufficient for man to contemplate

himself by himself to understand God; the best

and most perfect kind of contemplation of God

is in woman. Sexual union imitates God's relationship

with man, “the man yearning for his

Lord Who is his origin, as woman yearns for

man. His Lord made women dear to him, just as

God loves that which is in His own image”

(1980, 274). What distinguishes the sexual act

of the gnostic from that of ordinary men is that

the gnostic perceives the spirit of God in

woman, and by joining himself to her becomes

aware of his own oneness with God and of God

in his active and receptive aspects. Indeed, if

one engages in sexual intercourse in the

realisation of God in a woman, the act itself is a

means for the mystic's perfection. This is exactly

the opposite of the intercourse of the lustful

man for whom a woman is merely a body

without a spirit. Elsewhere Ibn al-'Arabi explicitly

states that the qutb, the Axis, the highest in

the hierarchy of saints, often engages in sexual

intercourse and loves women:


April 2018 The

Light 9

“He knows from the divine manifestations

in sexual union what drives him to seek it and

embrace it, for his worship cannot achieve for

him or any other gnostic more than can be attained

by sexual union. … He desires sexual union,

not for the sake of procreation, but only for

pleasure. The consummation of sexual

intercourse is itself commended in the Law …,

and the sexual act of the one in this spiritual

station is like the sexual union of the people of

Paradise, only for the sake of pleasure, for it is

the greatest manifestation which has been

hidden from men and jinn, except for those

servants whom God has specially chosen for it.

Likewise, the intercourse

of animals is

purely for pleasure.

Many gnostics have

failed to grasp this truth,

for it is one of the secrets

of which only a few of

the “people of providence”

(Ahl al-‘inaya)

understand. If it did not

have complete nobility

indicating the weakness

appropriate to servanthood,

it would not have such an overwhelming

pleasure which causes a person to pass away

from his strength and pretensions. It is a pleasurable

subjugation, although subjugation precludes

pleasure in the one who is subjugated

because the pleasure in subjugation belongs to

the one who is subjugating, not the one who is

subjugated, except in this act in particular. This

nobility has escaped people, who have made it

an animalistic passion from which they refrain

— although they have called it by the noblest of

names when they say it is animalistic, that is, a

characteristic of animals/living beings, and

what is nobler than life? So what they have

deemed ugly about themselves is the very thing

that is praiseworthy for the perfect gnostic”

(1966a, 2:573-574).

It is not surprising to see that another characteristic

of the qutb, according to Ibn Arabi, is

the love of beauty in all its forms, for they all express

the absolute beauty of the divine. It is this

very idea that has led some Sufis to seek out the

company which best reflects the divine beauty,

The goal of the Sufi is to be

annihilated in God, in order

to achieve union with him.

In sexual intercourse, the

man is annihilated in the

woman, says Ibn al-`Arabi,

but this is in fact a type of

annihilation in God.

I Shall Love All Mankind.

a beautiful girl or a handsome youth. Any discussion

of sexuality in Islam would have to take

into account the prevalence of homosexual

tendencies, whether in poetic description or actual

practice. Such was the danger of temptation

from the sight of "the beardless" that some

scholars said that the rules that guarantee the

segregation of women from men should also be

applied to handsome youths: they should not be

allowed to sit with men at the public bath or

dance with them, because the logic of seclusion

and segregation has to do with sexual

temptation, not gender (Ibn Taymiyyah 42;

Hujwiri 416). Sufi love of the beardless youth is

reflected in a hadith

which says, “I saw my

Lord as a young man,

with his cap awry"

(Schimmel 131).

According to Ibn al-

Arabi, a man's greatest

pleasure will be in that

whose form corresponds

to him, just as

God reserves his greatest

love and pleasure for

man, who was created in

his image. The greatest pleasure is to be found

in the love of a girl or a youth, because they correspond

to him entirely, being in his image. Only

in something that corresponds to him in this

precise way can he experience annihilation. The

benefit of keeping company with beardless

youths is that they are newer, of more recent

origin in their Lord than the older man, “and

whatever is closer to its creation is a better indication,

more sacred, and more abundantly the

occasion of mercy than the older man. … In

keeping their company, one remembers their

newness as distinct from God's existence which

is from the beginning.” He unconvincingly argues

that keeping company with the young is

justified by the Quran when it blames those who

do not accept a new (muhdath) reminder from

God (21:2, 26:5). Since the gnostic looks at

youths this way, as a reminder of God, keeping

their company does not harm him, although for

the disciples and ordinary Sufis, it is prohibited

(1966a, 2:189-190).


April 2018 The

Light 10

Likewise, says Ibn al-Arabi, the gnostic's desire

for women is the desire of the whole for its

part as well as the desire and love of the older

for the younger.

Furthermore, the

gnostic is motivated

by compassion

to keep the

company of women,

just as the

Prophet Muhammad

was motivated

by compassion to

marry women

since he had seen

that they constitute

the greater part of

the inhabitants of

hellfire (see Smith

and Haddad). Ibn

al-Arabi does not

explain how this company benefits women, but

it is commonly believed, following the teaching

of a hadith from the authoritative collection of

“sound” hadiths by Muslim, that in the afterlife

a person will be with the one he loves. By securing

a woman's love, the Prophet or gnostic guarantees

her salvation, for her love for him will be

counted as love for God and will save her; she

will be with him in Paradise. In this way, keeping

the company of women serves them as well

as the man. Ibn al-Arabi does not deny that men

are superior to women and devotes an entire

section to an analysis of the “rank” that the

Quran says men have over women (1966a, 3:87-

88). Nonetheless, he says, “whoever knows the

value and secret of women do not abstain from

loving them. Rather, loving them is part of the

perfection of the gnostics, and it is a prophetic

inheritance and a divine love” (1966a, 2:190).

One should keep company with beardless

youths or women only for the sake of God. If it

is done without this goal, the person suffers. In

fact, he says:

The disciple should not take up the company

of women until he becomes a woman. If he

† This is a reply to the often repeated objection

against the Promised Messiah because he has

written about himself that Allah made him Mary

I Shall Love All Mankind.

becomes female and attaches to the lower

world and sees how the higher world loves it,

and sees himself in every spiritual condition

and moment in

The disciple should not take up the

company of women until he himself

becomes a woman. If he becomes female

and attaches to the lower world

and sees how the higher world loves

it, and sees himself in every spiritual

condition and moment in perpetual

sexual union as a female (i.e., assuming

the receptive role in an unceasing

act of coition) and does not see himself

in his spiritual insight as male

first, but purely female, and he becomes

pregnant from that marriage

and gives birth

perpetual sexual

union as a female

(mankuhan

da'iman, i.e.,

assuming the

receptive role in an

unceasing act of

coition) and does

not see himself in

his spiritual insight

as male first, but

purely female, and

he becomes pregnant

from that

marriage and gives

birth † — then he

may keep company

with women and incline toward them, and love

for them will not harm him. As for the Gnostics’

keeping company with women, [permission to

do so] is absolute, because they see the absolute,

holy, divine hand in their giving and taking.

Everyone knows his spiritual condition”

(1966a, 2:191-192).

It is only after achieving perfect receptivity

in relation to God the one is able properly to assume

the role of activity/masculinity implied in

a right relationship with women. Ibn al-Arabi

also describes the disciples as “brides of the Absolute

Reality,” and for their shaykh, they are

“like the one who combs the bride's hair and

adorns her” (1966a, 2:365). The Sufi is female

in his relation to God, but he is active, like God,

in his relation to woman, for man is to woman

as God is to man.

As we have seen, the philosophy of Ibn al-

Arabi allows that the very things that must be

prohibited to the masses may be of the greatest

benefit to the perfected gnostic. Ibn al-Arabi

even states that there are some who have been

annihilated from their sins and are under God's

protection, even if they appear to do something

and then he became pregnant and after nine

months gave birth to Jesus.


April 2018 The

Light 11

the is contrary to Islamic Law. God has said to

them, “Do what you please, I have forgiven you.”

For them, nothing is prohibited (1966a, 2:512). 4

Indeed, mystical insight sometimes constitutes

a reversal of things as they apparently are.

The conventional wisdom is that modesty or

shame (hiya’) is part of faith. But the famous

Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1273) retorted,

“Shame hinders you from the true faith,” because

it inhibits people from willingly sacrificing

reputation and worldly interests in the way

of God (Schimmel 122). Among some Sufis, it

became the highest virtue to be seen doing reprehensible

things, for in this way men would be

repulsed, and one's service to God would be for

the sake of God alone. Many Sufi sayings are

paradoxes, even on the moral plane, and in

mysticism, symbols turn logic inside out. Zulaykha,

the woman who tried to seduce Joseph,

becomes a symbol, not of the wanton woman

but a model of extravagant love, the love of the

Sufi, just as wine becomes a symbol not of sinful

indulgence but of the intoxicating presence of

God. The Sufis are by definition those who hold

to the superiority of hidden truths and hidden

virtues over external meanings, status, and religious

ostentation. Thus, for the ordinary Muslim,

when a man and a woman are alone together,

Satan is the third party, and the mixing

of men and women brings corruption. For the

spiritual man, the bringing together of men and

women may yield spiritual fruits unobtainable

even through acts of worship.

Notes

1. In 1987-88 I did research under the auspices

of a Fulbright grant. I continued my research for

the second year on my resources. The results of

my research will be published in a book under

preparation, Sufism, Mystics and Saints in Modern

Egypt.

2. A hadith is a narrative concerning the sayings

or deeds of the Prophet Muhammad.

3. The word “causing him to pass away” is identical

to causing him to become annihilated, to

attain fana’, the Sufi goal. The overwhelming

pleasure to be found in sexual intercourse in

which the gnostic perceives the divine in a

woman is a type of actual annihilation in God,

for both remove him from any awareness of his

own self.

I Shall Love All Mankind.

4. This point of view is very reminiscent of

viewpoints attributed by Irenaeus to the Gnostic

Valentinians, (Adv. haer. 1.6.2. and 3). This

insight was provided by my colleague in the

Program for the Study of Religion at the University

of Illinois, William Schoedel.

(Return_to content)

The form of purification before

ritual devotion or worship

is strikingly similar in

most religions. This can be

seen in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism,

Judaism, Christianity

and Islam. Here some examples

are given of the similarities

between what the Old

and New Testaments say and

Islam. As the Holy Quran

says that in it are all the correct

teachings.

Salaat Postures and the Bible

Consider the following verses from the Bible.

“And he (Jesus) went a little further, and fell

on his face, and prayed…” (Matthew 26:39)

“And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and

did worship…” (Joshua 5:14)

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence

of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle

of the congregation, and they fell upon

their faces…” (Numbers 20:6)

“And Abraham fell on his face…” (Genesis

17:3)

“…and they fell on their faces before the

throne and worshipped God.” (Revelation 7:11)

“…then they bowed their heads and

worshipped the Lord with their faces to the

ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6)

“…Then David and the elders of Israel, who

were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.”

(1 Chronicles 21:16)


April 2018 The

Light 12

In many other places in the Bible where we

find the method of prayer mentioned, it calls to

mind the way Muslims pray. In the Bible book

entitled Daniel we can read a description of

Daniel praying to God in a time of great crisis.

“Now when Daniel knew that the writing

was signed, he went into his house; and his windows

being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem,

he kneeled upon his knees three times a

day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God,

as he did aforetime.” (Daniel 6:10)

It is interesting to note that Prophet Daniel

prayed towards Jerusalem. In the early days of

Prophet Muhammad’s (s) mission, the faithful

also prayed towards Jerusalem. However, the

Muslim direction of prayer changed. About sixteen

months after Prophet Muhammad (s) and

his followers migrated from Makkah to the city

of Madinah the direction was changed to facing

the sacred House of God in Makkah.

Descriptions of the positions Muslims adopt

in the five ritual prayers per day can be found

throughout the Bible. Many are mentioned in

the book of Psalms.

“Stand in awe, and sin not.”(Psalms 4:4)

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let

us kneel before the Lord, our maker.” (Psalms

95:6)

“…all that go down to the dust shall bow before

him…” (Psalms 22:29)

And in the book of Kings, we find Prophet

Elijah casting himself upon the earth in the position

of kneeling before touching the forehead

to the ground.

“…and he cast himself down upon the earth,

and put his face between his knees.” (1 Kings

18:42)

This is a position very familiar to Muslims.

So too is the position Jesus adopts during

prayer in a moment of fear and uncertainty.

“And he (Jesus) was withdrawn from them

about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and

prayed.” (Luke 22:41) (Return_to content)

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I Shall Love All Mankind.

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