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Islamic Glossary

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A

accomplishment of His purpose:
Ibn `Arabi believes that God's purpose is to have knowledge of Himself. He possesses this knowledge by knowing Himself through the medium of His creatures. By the very fact of being one of God's creatures, you help Him to fulfill His purpose.

`alam al-shahadat:
The phenomenal world.

Animal soul:
In Arabo-Persian usage, nafs ("soul", "self") is used both for the immortal soul of a human, which survives death, and also for the carnal, or lower, soul.

associator:
Someone who offers his adoration to anything besides the one God. Hence polytheists and idolaters are associators. However on a more subtle level, anyone who adores God with an
impure love is an associator too. For instance someone who adores God, not for His Self alone, but in expectation of some other reward, is also an associator.

B

baqa:
persistence (often used in connection with fana to refer to a sort of re-birth that follows ego death; i.e. to persist or endure following death of the ego).

beings who name them:
The beings who name the divine Names are the vassals or devotees of those Names. In other words, it is the human being who epiphanizes a Name in the phenomenal world that has it within his power to name that Name, where the Name can be thought of as his divine alter ego or higher self. According to Ibn `Arabi, some (many?) people reject their Name.

C

Covenant of Alast:
While human beings were subsisting within God prior to creation, God asked them "Am I not (alast) your Lord?" And they all answered "Yea! We testify!". At the Resurrection it will be determined whether each individual remained faithful to his original testimony. In other words, did his actions reflect his pre-creation acceptance of servant hood and God's Lordship? Or did his actions demonstrate that he lived the life of a denier, one who's life was a denial of the Covenant of Alast?

D

dhikr:
The word refers both to memory and to speech. Its literal interpretation is "mention". According to Burckhardt (p. 63), "it is by an inner mention that a memory is evoked". Hence when the Qur'an is translated into English, passages that refer to "remembering Allah" could just as well be translated as "invoking Allah". The injunctions to "invoke Allah" are seen by Sufi masters as supporting the practice of repeating Allah's names.

Dilaram:
Literally, "that which gives the heart repose"; a common term for the beloved (Signs of the Unseen, footnote 110, p. 66)

divine compassion:
In Ibn 'Arabi's works, the Divine Compassion appeases the anguish of being unknown. See the Sigh of Compassion for more information.

divine Name:
Each Name can be thought of as a bi-unity: an uncreated Lord and a created vassal or servant. These two roles are forever distinct. The uncreated Lord may be thought of as the Angel or the eternal hexeity or the eternal individuality of a given individual's being. The created individual or servant is seen as an epiphanized form of the uncreated Lord. As God is indivisible, all of the divine Names are said to be in sympathetic union with one another, yet each Name embodies a unique attribute of the Godhead. Unlike other divine Names, Al-Lah is the Name which is invested with the sum of all the divine Attributes.

E

existence:
In this existence there is nothing but the necessary Existent, which is God - Allah, from which all other so-called existences or 'beings' are derived or 'on loan', so there has to be in this life a constant lifting of those veils which separate us from God. Finding (wujûd) also has the meaning of existence or being.
“Perpetual existence-giving (takwîn) belongs to Allah, and perpetual reception of activity belongs to the possible things (al-mumkinât), which are the cosmos.”

F

face:
Same as sirr.

fana:
This has a number of different meanings, but within the passages quoted here it most often means "ego death".

G

God created in the faiths:
The basic premise here is that God reveals himself differently within different religious traditions. Typically an individual will affirm the God who is revealed within his religion, but will reject God as He appears in other religions. According to Ibn `Arabi, this denial of the God found in external religions reflects a less advanced level of spiritual development. Ibn `Arabi maintains that after fana an individual becomes capable of recognizing God's self-revelation in all religions. Furthermore the devotee who practices manajat comes to realize that the God who reveals Himself in response to the devotee's own faith has purposely assumed limits in order to establish a relationship with the devotee as his personal Lord.

H

hadith:
A saying of the Prophet transmitted outside the Qur'an through a chain of known intermediaries. There are two kinds of hadith: hadith qudsi (sacred sentence), a direct revelation, in which God speaks in the first person by the mouth of the Prophet, and hadith nabawi (prophetic sentence), an indirect revelation in which the Prophet speaks as himself.  (Introduction to Sufism, p. 117)

Hallaj:
Hallaj was an Islamic mystic who is well known to this day for his assertion, "I am God." He was condemned to death in 922 A.D. His teachings were considered to be so dangerous that it was against the law to copy or distribute his writings for several hundred years after his death.

Hidden Treasure:
This is an allusion to the hadith qudsi in which God declares, "I was a Hidden Treasure, so I wanted to be known." The universe performs a service as God's mirror in as much as it allows God to behold His Attributes. Mankind fulfills a special role in this universe in that the self-realized saints reflect God's ability to recognize the Hidden Treasure (i.e. God) within themselves.

himma:
The power of the heart.

hypostasis:
a person; The term appears with more frequency in Christian theological works to refer to the three persons of the Christian Trinity.

I

Iblis:
The figure of Iblis in Islam is similar to that of Satan in Christianity. Although Iblis was an angelic being, his vision couldn't penetrate the outward form of a thing in order to apprehend its inward meaning. When Adam (the first human) was created, God commanded Iblis and all the other angels to prostrate themselves before Adam. Iblis refused to bow down to this new creation of God. Iblis reasoned to himself that he was superior to Adam since he was made of fire while Adam was only made of clay. In this one act of defiance Iblis introduced the sins of pride, envy, and disobedience into the world. When confronted by God, Iblis refused to take any responsibility for his sins; instead he accused God of leading him astray.

imagination
(whether referred to as active, or creative, or theophanic):
This term is used widely by Henry Corbin, the translator of Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn `Arabi. When Corbin uses the word imagination, he is not referring to fantasy or make-believe. Instead he is referring to the organ which perceives spiritual visions. The object of such vision is regarded as real, yet immaterial.

intellect:
This intellect is seen as the seat for the power of discernment; it gives people the ability to see things as they are, to distinguish such attributes as truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness.  However in most humans the intellect is unable to function properly because it is veiled by the ego. The original error in judgment comes from identifying the human spirit with it's cloak of water and clay (i.e. the body). Following this mistaken identification, the intellect is unable to penetrate the outward form of those objects within its perceptual field. If it could go beyond forms to inward meaning, the intellect would discover God in all things. Or as Rumi puts it, "How many words the world contains! But all have one meaning. When you smash the jugs, the water is one" (p. 8 of The Sufi Path of Love.)

While veiled, the intellect is known as the partial intellect and it exists in an adversarial relationship with the ego. As an individual's ego "thins out", the intellect becomes better at fulfilling its purpose. In most people, the ego dominates the intellect. However in those individuals who are making spiritual progress, the intellect begins to dominate the ego. When the veil of the ego is altogether eliminated, the human spirit is altogether sanctified. In Rumi's
words:  The partial intellect is a denier of Love, even if it pretends to know the mysteries. It is clever and knowledgeable, but not naughted -- as long as the angel is not naughted, it is a demon.  (p. 223 of The Sufi Path of Love)

J

judgment:
.

K

Ka`aba:
The Ka`aba is a building located within the court of the Great Mosque at Mecca. Muslims all over the world face in the direction of the Ka`aba while praying. Pilgrims at Mecca are supposed to circumambulate the Ka`aba. The Ka`aba contains a sacred black stone.

L

lahut:
Divine.

M

manajat:
Ibn `Arabi conceives of prayer as being an intimate dialog between an individual and his personal Lord. God's prayer is seen as existentiating his creatures, whereas the devotee's prayer is seen as existentiating his personal Lord. Ibn `Arabi's method of prayer is presented in detail elsewhere.

mazhar:
A symbol. A symbol is an apparently finite thing that points toward something that's unbounded and indescribable. The knowledge conveyed by the symbol cannot be apprehended in any other way, nor can the symbol ever be explained once and for all. It's true meaning becomes known via theophanic vision.

musalli:
an orant; one who prays. According to Ibn `Arabi, only the individual who is capable of perceiving the Lord's reponse to his prayer is truly a musalli. If an individual does not append the divine response, it's because he isn't really present with his Lord during prayer. See manajat for more information.

N

nasut:
human, as opposed to divine.

nostalgia of the divine Names:
"Nostalgia" is perhaps a poor choice of words, as it suggests a longing for things past. What this phrase really means is that the latent potentialities within the divine essence (these potentialities are usually referred to as the divine Names) yearn to know themselves, and this knowledge is acquired via their manifestation within the created universe.

O

P

personal Lord (al-Rabb)
Ibn `Arabi states that Allah cannot be known or experienced directly. However Allah is desirous to be known and experienced by His devotees. So He imposes limits upon Himself in order to reveal His attributes. Each qualified manifestation of God is regarded as one of God's many divine Names. When known by one such Name, God is said to assume the form of a personal Lord for a particular devotee. Through devotion to his personal Lord, the devotee can eventually come to know God through other divine Names as well and thereby gain a fuller understanding of the Godhead; however through it all he still maintains a unique devotional bond to his own Lord. Ibn `Arabi regards Allah as being invested with the sum of His attributes or Names, whereas the personal Lord (al-Rabb) manifests a particular attribute.

Pharoah:
Moses was charged with freeing God's people from the dominion of the Egyptian leader, the Pharaoh. Meanwhile the Pharaoh did everything he could to preserve his dominion over them.  According to the Koran, Moses' adversary the Pharaoh asserted, "I am your Lord the Most High." (Koran LXXIX 24). 
From a metaphorical point of view, Moses represents the intellect, the Pharaoh represents the ego, and God's people represents the spirit residing in each person.

Possessor of the Heart:
Those who are pure in heart achieve God-consciousness; they are truly and actually aware of God at the center of their being (their heart). These sanctified individuals are said to be Possessors of the Heart.  (p. 36 of The Sufi Path of Love)

As an individual makes spiritual progress, he experiences alternating waves of expansion and contraction. When an individual experiences expansion, this is a sort of union, and it is not uncommon for an aspirant undergoing this relative union to think that he's reached the end of his journey. This mistaken interpretation of his experience may lead him to conclude that he is a Possessor of the Heart when in fact he may still have a long way to go.

Q

R

S

secret or sirr:
An individual's center of consciousness; the source of an individual's being. At this mysterious point, the individual comes into contact with that which is Holy.

Sigh of Compassion(Nafas al-Rahman or Nafas Rahmani):
Before the creation of the universe, the divine Names yearned to be known. In His compassion and sympathy for these Names, God is said to have existentiated them with a sigh. In other words, it was this sigh of compassion that caused the Names to be epiphanized or manifested in the created universe. Furthermore this sigh continues to preserve the universe by recreating it at each moment.

shaikh, or shaykh:
A shaikh is a saintly, self-realized individual who serves as a spiritual guide for others. The shaikh's words provide some guidance, but even more benefit comes from simply associating with an individual who has attained such purity of intellect, for it reflects something of God's perfection. Through proximity to the shaikh, the disciple's own intellect is strengthened and gains the upper hand in its spiritual combat with the ego.

Of course not everyone who claims to be a shaikh really is one, and a great deal of spiritual harm is inflicted on the disciples of so-called shaikhs who actually are ego-maniacs. In order to distinguish the charlatans from the saints, the potential disciple must already have purified his intellect to some extent. If the disciple's ego still dominates his intellect, he will be tend to be drawn to these charlatans, and their influence will help his ego to become even stronger. In contrast an individual who has already acquired some humility and made progress in virtue will be able to recognize the genuine saint.

A female spiritual guide is a shaikha.

state or al-hal:
Spiritual realization which is fleeting or temporary. Refers to a glimpse of spiritual truths which are more profound than those that characterize a given individual's normal level of realization.

station or maqam:
Spiritual realization which is permanent. The sufi mystic who attains a particular station is said to be established in the truths revealed by that particular level of realization.

surat al-Haqq:
When a spiritual aspirant is sufficiently spiritually developed, his personal Lord appears to him by taking on a form that may be material or immaterial. 

T

tajalli
epiphany.

tanazzulat:
An instance of descent from the the One essence into a manifestation within the sensibleworld. Ironically this descent both reveals and hides the One essence. By transmuting the Unlimited into something limited, It assumes attributes by which It can be known. However since the One essence is unlimited, the very fact that It has assumed limits makes It appear to be other than what It is. This paradox is transcended via theophanic vision.

ta'wil:
A vision of reality in which everything seen takes on symbolic meanings. Same as theophanic vision.

U

Universal Intellect (`aql-i kulli):
The intellect that's entirely pure and free of ego, the "Intellect of the intellect." It can discern the meaning hidden within every form, and thus it sees things as they truly are. Although there is only one Universal Intellect, this intellect reveals itself to the saints in varying degrees, according to their capacity.

V

Veil (hijâb):
“This world is the locus of the veil, except for the gnostics, for they have the station of the last world in this world.” And veils are of different sorts, among them are veils through which creatures are veiled from God.

W

wujûd:
More correct and encompassing than the notion 'existence' is the notion of wujûd.
Wujûd is that which finds and is found, and finding is with knowledge and conciousness. Strictly speaking only GOD has wujûd, in themselves the objects of God's knowledge are non-existing.
And there is a never-ending bestowal of existence (wujûd) upon the possible things in this world.

+
Wujud is existence, concretion, actuality. Wujud or 'existence', the masdar of the Arabic verb wajada (literally 'to have found'), is maujud, meaning an 'individual existent', or the property of an individual existent. Wujud differs from both 'essence' and 'being'. The chief example of maujud is an individual substance. Only the Necessary Existent is said to have wujud as its essence. Other examples of entities having wujud are accidents of an individual substance which has been realized, such as the color pink in Fulan's skin.
In any instance of wujud other than the Necessary Existent, the essence of the wujud, i.e. 'what it is', differs from its existence, i.e. from the fact 'that it is'.
(from "The Metaphysics of Ibn Sina" by Prof. Parviz Morewedge, p. 325.)

X

Y

Z

zahir:
Esoteric meaning.  Manifest, self-evident meaning.

General terms often found in scholarly works on Sufism

circumambulate:
to walk around something in a ritualistic manner.

epiphany:
God revealing Himself in His creation. Describes what happens when spirituality materializes. This is often referred to in Sufi literature as descent. To say that God epiphanizes Himself is the same as saying that He reveals Himself in some aspect of His creation. Compare with theophanic vision.

existential:
1.pertaining to existence
2.based on experience
3.pertaining to existentialism

existentiate:
to bring into existence.

genus:
1.(LOGIC) a class of objects divided into subordinate species having certain common attributes
2.a class, group, or kind with common attributes

gnosis:
Mystical knowledge

gnostic:
Someone who has mystical knowledge

hermeneutics:
A method of scriptural or symbolic interpretation. See theophanic imagination for more information.

ipseity:
The quality of God as a wholly independent being who is complete in Himself. The term gives emphasis to the paradox that God, without any need to do so, creates and draws creatures to Him through love and knowledge. (Definition courtesy G. Thursby)

ontological:
relating to the branch of philosophy that deals with being

presentiment:
a sense that something is about to occur; a premonition

principial:
A defining or essential feature. What is principial may be hidden to ordinary perception but will be revealed to the mystic. (Definition courtesy G. Thursby)

suzerainty:
Lordliness.

According to Ibn `Arabi, it is the vassal's devotion to his Lord which permits the Lord to display or manifest his attribute of lordliness. For this reason Ibn `Arabi's often states that the vassal holds "the secret of his Lord's suzerainty". However Ibn `Arabi also contends that the vassal's love for his Lord is nothing but an expression of the divine love as it manifests itself through the person of the vassal. So it is often said that there is a "secret to the secret of the Lord's suzerainty."

theophanic vision:
Theophanic vision is mediated by himma, the power of the heart. An individual with theophanic vision doesn't just process sensory data. Instead he sees through things, gaining an intimation of what the thing symbolizes on a spiritual level. It's as if the each object of theophanic vision were a window into paradise. Viewed in this way, material things are spiritualized. This is often referred to in Sufi literature as ascent or return. Compare with epiphany and theophany 

theophany:
A manifestation of some aspect of God in the material realm as mystically experienced by an individual.





from lamed.org


 

 

 

vs.1.1

2006-01-22

 



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