Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jesus - the Son of Mary

On this special day of the symbolic celebration of the birth of Jesus, I think it is useful to remember that Hazrat Nabi Isa is also one who is inferred amongst those referenced in al-Fatiha. In his book, "The Muslim Jesus", Tarif Khalidi summarizes well the Qur'anic perspective on Jesus:

" With respect to form, the references to Jesus in the Qur'an can be divided into four groups:
(1) birth and infancy stories, (2) miracles, (3) conversations between Jesus and God or between Jesus and the Israelites, and (4) divine pronouncements on his humanity, servanthood, and place in the prophetic line which stipulate that "fanatical" opinions about him must be abandoned. As regards the first two groups, there is little reason to question their close affinity with certain apocryphal gospels and with Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic literature. His sinless birth - which in the Qur'an takes place under a palm tree -and the words he speaks as an infant in the cradle are all ayat ("signs"), manifestations of divine favor shown to him and his mother. His miracles are not narrated so much as listed as reminders of the power granted to him by God to cure the sick and raise the dead. Unlike canonical Gospels, the Qur'an tilts backward to his miraculous birth rather than forward to his Passion. This is why he is often referred to as "the son of Mary" and why he and his mother frequently appear together. At his side, she confirms his miraculous pure birth. But his "death" is equally miraculous: he is lifted up to God, where according to later Islamic tradition he remained alive and waiting to fulfill his appointed role at the end of time, a role merely hinted at in the Qur'an (43:61). He himself is described as an aya, a sign or miraculous proof of God's omnipotence; and although other prophets share this attribute - and share also, of course, the ability to effect miracles - Jesus is unique in his ability to inspire so much Qur'anic tension, the aim being to establish the ultimate truth about him."

~Excerpted from "The Muslim Jesus" by Tarif Khalidi, 2001, pp. 14-15

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mary - the Blessed Virgin of Islam

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Rahim.

"And when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! God hath chosen thee and purified thee, and hath preferred thee above the women of all nations." (3:42)

On the eve of the symbolic celebration of the immaculate birth of Jesus, as we contemplate the verse, "sirat al-ladhina an 'amta 'alayhim," I have often wondered whether those who were inferred by this verse were all male prophets (for our Sunni brothers and sisters in faith) in addition to all male Imams (for our Shia brothers and sisters in faith). I also wondered if there was any feminine dimension to those who were graced by Allah so that our salat and/or du'a was not based primarily on a patriarchal paradigm of prophecy and divine revelation.

Dr. Aliah Schleifer, a former professor of Islamic Studies at the American University of Cairo, wrote her doctoral dissertation on just this topic, which I invite you all to peruse. Clearly Miriam has been unconsciously present in al-Fatiha despite the normal patriarchal commentaries of the past. For some of us, let us not forget that the inference also includes Fatima the radiant daughter of the Holy Prophet, pbuh.

In Dr. Aliah Schleifer's work, "Mary - the Blessed Virgin of Islam," published posthumously, she explored the theological status of Mary in Islam. She referenced Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi (d. 456AH) who argued in favor of the claim for Mary's prophethood and hence the highest status of woman as equal to that of men:

"Ibn Hazm considers Mary to be unquestionably a prophetess. He states that God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with a message to her (19:19), which he describes as 'genuine prophecy'
(nubuwwa sahiha). In addition, he refers to other miraculous experiences such as the divine provisions in the mihrab. Ibn Hazm then places Mary in the general category of Prophets by applying the statement in 19:58 to the Chapter of Mary as a whole:

Those were they among the prophets to whom God showed favour....(19:58)

He points out that Mary is mentioned among those prophets in the Chapter of Mary, and this inclusion of her within the general category of prophets renders it impossible to make an exception and exclude her from that category. He further states that neither does the Qur'anic statement 'And his mother was a righteous woman' (siddiqa) (5:75) rule out her being a prophetess, as elsewhere the Qur'an, in connection with the prophet Joseph says: 'Joseph! O thou truthful (upright) one.' (siddiq) (12:46), which does not impugn his prophetic status.

Then he mentions the hadith kamula min ar-rijal, in which he indicates that the Prophet was specifying Mary and Asiya, preferring these two above other women who have been vouchsafed prophecy. To show that some human beings are preferred above others, Ibn Hazm quotes the following text:

Those messengers: We have preferred (faddalna) some above others;-
of them there are those unto whom God spoke; and
He exalted some of them in degrees (above others)....(2:253)

Having considered the matter from various perspectives, Ibn Hazm concludes:

There are individuals whom God made more excellent than others, such as the prophets Muhammad and Abraham, according to what has been transmitted to us; and the perfection of Mary and Asiya over other women is confirmed by the Prophet's hadith."

~ Excerpt from "Mary - The Blessed Virgin of Islam" by Alia Schleifer (1997) pp. 85-86

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The psychology of the Wrath of God

When reflecting on the image and archetype of the Wrath of God, which is mentioned in al-Fatiha and hence common to all Muslims, I came across an analysis by Greg Mogenson, a Canadian Jungian analyst and analytical psychologist, whose book "A Most Accursed Religion - When a Trauma becomes God" is very illuminating about this topic. He comments on the language of wrath in the Hebrew Bible and its meta-messages using verses from Isaiah and Job and comes to this insight:

"The wrath of God and the kindness of God are complexly interwoven. When we are crushed and broken by an overwhelming event, we experience firsthand what the ancient Hebrews knew as the rod of His wrath. A natural piety is called into play, a piety of terror and dread. Brought low, broken asunder, we prostrate ourselves before the stimulus that threatens to annihilate us as if before our Maker. Typically, there is a moral moment. It seems that we are being punished. But what are we being punished for? What have we done to warrant this affliction? We search ourselves for sin. If we can find ourselves guilty of some error or indiscretion, our suffering will at least make sense and we can set about making our atonement.

Often, however, we can find no sin and our affliction seems quite senseless. But here, too, we are easily given over to piety. As the pain increases so, too, does our sense of relationship to an omnipotent being. As the persistence of our suffering mocks our ability to understand it within the categories of our usual existence, our sense of relationship to a wholly other will and purpose grows. Gradually, conversion dawns. The ontology of the event that traumatizes us upstages our own ontology. In order to survive, we enter into the route of that which afflicts us and allow ourselves to be re-created by it. Submitting ourselves to its epistemology, we become the keepers of its law. "Glory, Glory, Glory, for the Lord, God, Omnipotent reigneth!" As piously as the phobic patient propitiates the eliciting stimulus of his phobia, we propitiate the overwhelming event that has transcended us, acknowledging its holiness. Only in the eye of the storm do we feel safe. Only in those ritualized observances that the faithless call our "symptoms" are we the children of God."

~ excerpt from "A Most Accursed Religion", by Greg Mogenson, pp. 28-29

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alchemical Hermeneutics of al-Fatiha

In looking at different approaches to a depth interpretation of our sacred verses, one psychological method seems very appropriate to such an undertaking, with soul in mind. It is one which evokes the image of 9/11 which itself informs one of the motivations of this inquiry towards a Psychology of Islam. Until there is some understanding and appreciation for the Muslim psyche by a power-driven Other, the planet will still continue to be at risk of mutual self-annihilation:

"Alchemical hermeneutics ( as a path of re-turning in a healing act of loving re-membrance) is practiced by one whose consciousness has become attuned to a mythopoetic way of knowing the world and being in it, a way of knowing and being that is attuned to the guise of the wholly, holy other in its dis-guises, since Hermes, we should not forget, is a trickster, a master of dis-guises. He is also a thief and a liar, and this means that the researcher must always take into account the shadows that darken the light of interpretation, the complexes that linger in the transference field between the researcher and the topic. Alchemical hermeneutics is a way of remaining present to the fact that the wholly and holy other is present in the complexes that haunt our concepts, as well as in the myths that haunt our meanings, in the dreams that haunt our reasons, in the symptoms that haunt our symbols, in the fantasies that haunt our facts, in the fictions that haunt our ideas, and in the images, like those of 9/11, that dwell in events."

~ excerpted from "The Wounded Researcher - Research with Soul in Mind" by Robert D. Romanyshyn, p. 226

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Psychoanalysis, Siratal Mustaqim and the religious moment

In reflecting upon the supposed absence of the feminine archetypes invoked when we refer to Siratal Mustaqim as "the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors," the Prophets, the Imams and all the luminaries sent forth by the Divine, in our daily recitations, it is worth considering a psychoanalytical perspective offered by James Hillman. This perspective calls us to re-examine the spiritual and archetypal claim of the feminine in Islam:

"Wherever we shift God's position, whether He be the God within, or the God absolutely outside and above, or the God below as the ground of being, or the God among wherever two or three are gathered, or whether we are all in God and can never despite our frenzied exercises be lost to Him - wherever we would assign Him His place, the religious moment is an experience and that experience takes place in the psyche. Our task is perhaps less to search for and locate God, and more to prepare the ground so that He may descend from the heights as the dove plummets, or arise from the depths, or be revealed through personal love.

The ground is prepared by insearch, by courageously reclaiming the lost areas of the soul, where it has fallen into disuse and disease. It is further prepared by separating the strands of the shadow and containing in consciousness the tensions of moral perplexities, so that our actions are less like actings-out and more like acts. The personality that cannot contain itself, that falls into bits should the ego be abandoned, that has no other light but that held together by the will, is hardly the ground for a religious moment. Even if God be love, that love can shatter us if our wounds from early human loves are fragilely stitched together. Can the personality that has not taken into account in one way or another the unconscious, the shadow and the anima, be a vessel to hold a divine force? Does it not succumb too readily to the demonic inhumanity of the collective outer world or the collective unconscious?

The religious moment as described in traditional accounts is a vivid intense realization, transcending ego and revealing truth. Just this is also at what analysis aims. The truth which can be experienced there goes beyond the causal truth of oneself: the banalities of how I got this way and who is to blame and what must I do now. Analysis moves toward the larger truth of coherence, toward intimations of immortality, how my person fits into the larger scheme of fate. These revelations, by opening one door to my emotional center, illumine one corner of the darkness. This truth is also love since it gives the sense of belonging and attachment to one's own ground.

If the main shadow of counseling is love and if counseling lies in its shadow, then our work will depend on love's "perfection." Love, as agape, means "to receive," "to welcome," "to embrace." Perhaps the perfection of love begins through faith in and work on the feminine within us, man or woman, since the feminine ground is the embracing container, receiving, holding, and carrying. It gives birth and nourishes and it encourages us to believe. This ground welcomes us home to ourselves just as we are. I do not know how better or how else we can prepare for the religious moment than by cultivating, giving inner culture to, our own unconscious femininity. For the religious moment to touch us at least the ground can be worked and opened, within the range of our individual human limits."

~ excerpt from "INSEARCH: Psychology and Religion", by James Hillman, Zurich and Moscia 1965/66

Friday, November 23, 2007

Psychology and Religion

James Hillman's book entitled "Insearch: Psychology and Religion" is written with the pastoral counselor in mind. In contemplating The Day of Reckoning, and the proposition of a Psychology of Islam within which we might place a psychology of Ultimate Concern, the following reflections by Hillman, a pre-eminent archetypal psychologist, are illuminating:

"Religious concern differs from theological or dogmatic concern for that would be to take up experiences into the already established positions of mental life or outer life, to put them to use and service, to place the soul in the yoke of profession. Rather the religious concern of the psyche comes in the form of spontaneous symbols that have similar representations in religion, such as the cross of opposites, the child in danger, the garden, the mountain, the gate and the guardian, the place of water, the wind, the desert, the grove of sacred trees - images that appear in dreams frequently. Or it arises from the religious motifs such as the importance of love, the battle with evil, the slaying of the dragon, the miraculous turn or cure. And the religious concern comes also in the form of intimations of immortality, eternity, metempsychosis, and questions of death, after-life, and judgment of this soul, what is right for it, where it is, where it will go next. In other words, the religious concern is a spontaneous manifestation of us each when the soul is refound.

The dogma and theology, too, take on new meaning. For on the one hand, the soul's questions and images are able to be fed by the background of traditional religion. And on the other hand, a sense of reawakened experience brings a freshness to the tradition and gives new meanings to it as the continuation of religion that is continually revealing itself. In other words, revelation stops whenever soul is lost and can no longer give experience and meaning to the basic myths, symbols, forms and proofs. For psychology, soul comes first - then religion. Yet also for psychology soul does not reach its fullness without realizing its religious concern.

Perhaps we cannot put either psychology or religion "first." The symbolic attitude of psychology arising from the experience of soul leads to a sense of the hidden numinous presence of the divine, while the belief in God leads to a symbolic view of life where the world is filled with significance and "signs." It is as if soul makes no choice between psychology and religion when they naturally lead into each other."

~ excerpted from "INSEARCH: Psychology and Religion," pp. 64-65

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Al-Hamd and the Psychology of Gratitude

Here is a message recently shared by the President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences with its membership that gives us pause to appreciate the essence of Alhamdulillah in al-Hamd.

Dear Members of IONS,
Your body loves gratitude! Not a superficial "oh gee, thanks" but a deep, heart-connected appreciation that carries love and acceptance from a place of higher consciousness and well-being.

Your body loves it because it washes away the biochemistry of stress and insufficiency and replaces it with the alchemy of flow and emotional warmth. The resonance from gratefulness warms both the giver and receiver; it generates a field of appreciation sometimes referred to as limbic resonance. In the field of appreciation, we create a healing and reviving antidote to psycho-toxins such as "I don’t have time," "I don’t have enough," or "I am drained."
Each trickle of gratitude blesses us with its affirmation that we have all we need in consciousness itself to gather our strength and honor life. Each stream of gratitude clears out the corrosive toxins of stress and anxiety in your body and becomes a gift to yourself and to others.

Now visualize great rivers of gratitude coming together as we turn collectively to face the hour in which we live. "With all of its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world," wrote Max Ehrmann. Even in the face of war, violence, and severe climate imbalance, Christopher Fry declared, "Thank God that our time is now, when wrong comes up to meet us everywhere." We can be grateful that we are here in this time of earth challenges with an unquenchable sense of hope and with a steadfast belief in our human capacity to heal, to renew and even to go beyond what seemed our most persistent limitations.

So I say let the gratitude flow. We are ready for the challenges that exist now and that lie ahead. Let these great rivers of our deepest intention flow towards a polarized and distracted world and cleanse it with the power of love. We come from all races, all creeds, all socio-political backgrounds with one unifying feeling of gratitude for life, for consciousness, and for a new evolutionary path forward. We come with gratitude for every being that came before us. We have been given an epic moment in the journey of life on earth to bring our greatest scientific knowledge together with our deepest spiritual insight to change the course of history. If you ever thought you were insignificant, consider how you are now needed in this great shift. And be grateful that you were given such a role and such a time to live in.

Thank you, thank you for what each one of you does to step up and to raise the consciousness of the citizens of this world. Thank you for feeding these great rivers, even in the face of wounding and denial. Thank you for being you.

In gratitude,
James O'Dea,
Institute of Noetic Sciences
P.S. We'd welcome you sharing your own messages of gratitude this season on Shift in Action

If you have a particular potent story of gratitude, you can also share with for possible inclusion in iShift.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poetic Consciousness of al-Hamd

In researching the Aesthetic philosophy of al-Hamd, I came across an essay by Sir Herbert Read, which has implications for the poetic consciousness raised by our seven sacred verses, gifted to us by the Divine Poet and uttered by us every day of our life:

"The poet speaks the essential word, says Heidegger. This implies that poetry is not the use of a ready-made language. It is that particular kind of speech, as Heidegger says (still interpreting Holderlin) which 'for the first time brings into the open all that which we then discuss and deal with in an everyday language. Hence poetry never takes language as a raw material ready to hand; rather it is poetry which first makes language possible. Poetry is the primitive language of a historical people'.

Such a theory of the primacy of poetic language had already, before Holderlin's time, been advanced by an obscure Italian philosopher whose revolutionary ideas have only in our time been given their full effect by the advocacy of Benedetto Croce - I mean, of course, Giambattista Vico. Vico, in his 'New Science', Scienza Nuova, boldly asserted, in opposition to the old science, that is, in opposition to the whole intellectual tradition of western philosophy, that 'in the histories of all nations, poetry appears as the first and primary mode of expression, as the vehicle of their first articulate life and expresses, not the peripheral, the pleasurable, or even the commodious dimensions of life, but the most intimate, stern and fundamental necessities of the life of the people, that is, their laws, their wisdom, their religious rites, their sacred formulas of birth, marriage and death, of initiation, of war and peace, and their rude speculations on the cosmos'. Poetry thus becomes, not a faculty developed by already cultured peoples for their delectation, or for the effective expression of ideas already rationally formulated (Horace's 'Aut prodesse aut delectare poetas'), but the primary act of apprehension and formulation, 'the expression of the pre-reflective or spontaneous consciousness of man'. Further, and here Vico anticipates Conrad Fiedler's theory of the plastic arts, there is no real distinction between this primary poetic expression and the first consciousness of some new aspect of reality: 'expression is the state of consciousness in its concrete actuality'.

When this poetic consciousness develops a form, a structure (but still not a reflective form), when it becomes what Holderlin called 'the most innocent of all occupations' and what Heidegger calls simply 'conversation', then we get, according to Vico, the myth. Poetry is no longer merely linguistic, but has become a myth-making activity, and once the myth is established, the consequential spiritual activities of man may develop: unification, integration, reflection, intellection. But, Vico asserts in one of his basic axioms, 'men at first feel without observing, then they observe with a troubled and agitated spirit. Finally they reflect with a clear mind'. And this axiom, he says, ' is the principle of the poetic sentences, which are formed with senses of passions and affections, in contrast with philosophic sentences, which are formed by reflection and reasoning'.

In the first stages of this development - the development from spontaneous expression to conversation, from the concrete actuality of a moment of consciousness (and of expression) to the formal articulation of a myth or an idea, between mere consciousness and passionate advertence, we have passed from what I will call the intensive aspects of poetry to the extensive aspects of poetry. We now distinguish these aspects thanks to our powers of reflection, and on the basis of the poetic material that has accumulated in historical times. In other words, the distinction we make is artificial, as is the whole academic science of poetry, poetics in the Aritotelian sense. It is our failure to preserve a sense of poetry as a primordial activity of consciousness, distinct from poetic thinking or myth-making, that has so often led to misunderstanding of the nature and function of poetry today, especially among psychologists.

The intensive aspects of poetry are due to the particular character of the words used in the spontaneous act of naming or advertence, and to the syntactical structure, or wholeness or unity which these words assume as they are uttered. The extensive aspects are due to the images, fantasies and reflections which these words convey, first to the poet in the act of advertence, then to the poet's audience, at the moment of understanding.

What we still debate, and the only excuse for reopening the subject now, is the degree to which these two aspects of poetry depend upon one another. To what extent is the degree of consciousness achieved in poetic utterance dependent on its verbal structure? Can the awareness conveyed by a poem be conveyed by any other verbal means - that is to say, by prose? Is the distinction between poetry and prose intensive only (that is to say,a question of verbal efficacy; or is it also extensive (that is to say, a distinct mode of discourse)? Poetry, it is easy to agree, is a spontaneous mode of expression: it is also at the moment of utterance a heightened state of consciousness. How shall we define such a state of specifically poetic consciousness; and what reality does such a state of consciousness reveal that is not accessible to mental acts of reflection?

~ excerpts from "The Forms of Things Unknown" by Sir Herbert Read, pp. 110-112

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Magnficience of Surah 1:1

Bismillah ir rahman ir rahim

The Arabic phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim is a beautifully poetic expression which offers both insight and inspiration. It has often been said that the phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim contains the true essence of the entire Qur'an, as well as the true essence of all religions.
Muslims often say the phrase when embarking on any significant endeavor, and the phrase is considered by some to be a major pillar of Islam. This expression is so magnificent and so concise that all but one chapter of the Qur'an begins with the words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.
The common translation:
"In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate".
fails to capture either the true depth of meaning or the inspirational message of this beautiful phrase. So, let's look deeper into the meaning of these wonderful words.
Origin and Spelling:
Every chapter of the Qur'an (except the ninth chapter) begins with the Arabic phrase:

However, there are many differing views on how this phrase should be transliterated using the English alphabet, as well as differing views on whether or not to include some of the Arabic rules of grammar. Consequently, one may encounter a variety of different transliterations of this glorious phrase on the internet, including: bismillahi al r-rahmani al r-rahim bismillahi al rahman al rahim bismillah al rahman al rahim bismi Allah al rahman al rahim bismillahi-r rahmani-r rahim bismillaah ir rahmaan ir raheem bismillah ir rahman ir rahim
However, regardless of how one may choose write the English transliteration of the original Arabic, at the end of the day, it is neither the writing of the words nor their pronunciation which is crucial, but rather we shall each be rewarded according to what is in our heart and how we act in the world.

Those who say these words with thoughts of self-aggrandizement, or selfish gains, or self-centered vain profit in any manner, will receive their just reward... suffering, pain and confusion. Likewise, those who truly dedicate every step of their life to the glory and service of the Ever-present One shall also receive their just reward... peace, love and beauty.
This phrase is truly an ideal to be expressed from the heart, an ideal to be expressed with the utmost sincerity, an ideal which leads us toward sacred purpose, the purpose for which we have been given life.

Let's look at the deeper meaning of each word of this glorious phrase:


The common translation for bismillah is "In the name of Allah", which is actually an idiom, an expression that really doesn't make much sense on a literal word-by-word basis.
The phrase In the name of is an idiom having the connotation of with the blessings of, under the guidance of, as an instrument of, with the support of, or for the glory of. In each of these cases, the idiom In the name of means submitting to, honoring or glorifying that which is referred to.

Now, let's take a deeper look into the Arabic roots of this magnificent word bismillah.
The term bismillah, is a combination of three words:
1. The particle bi which can mean by, for, with the aid of, through or by means of and points toward that which happens next.
2. The next word in this phrase is ism, based on the root variously reported to be s-m-w or a-s-m, which indicates the means by which something is distinguished, whether by use of an identifying mark, or by being raised up high so that it may be distinguished, and would include a name, reputation, light or vibration, and points toward the very essence of something, the inherent qualities and signs of the existence of something, the underlying reality of something.
3. The ending of the term is the word Allah, which is the Arabic name of the One. The Semitic roots of the word Allah extend back several thousand years to the Canaanite Elat, Hebrew El and Elohim, and Aramaic Alaha. These roots point toward unity, oneness, the eternal power which includes all of existence and of non-existence. In modern English this would generally be translated as God (which is old English, likely based on the Sanskrit word hu, meaning that which is worshipped, honored or adored).

Using these basic roots, the term bismillah might be literally translated as:
- By means of the very essence of God
- For the glory of our Creator
- With the light of the One
- With the guidance of The Divine
- As an instrument of the One

The central idea here is that whatever we do, every step that we take, every breath that we breathe, is done for, because of, and through the essence of, the One who has created us.
It is not us that does the work, it is not us that makes opportunities appear, it is not us that produces fruits from every action. We alone are powerless. The Creator has given us life and given us the ability to move and think and feel. We are totally dependent upon the Creator for the very essence of life itself.

Thus, this beautiful word bismillah is a magnificent reminder of our relationship to our Creator and our relationship to all of creation.

In one simple word bismillah expresses our wonder, awe and thankfulness while it also expresses our innermost prayer that we may have the blessing of another breath and that we may walk on a path of truth and understanding.

To say bismillah is to humbly offer one's self as a vehicle for the glory and majesty of The One.
ir rahman ir rahim

These two terms rahman and rahim refer to attributes of the One. While they are often translated simply as Merciful and Compassionate, the roots of the words point to a deeper meaning.

Both rahman and rahim are derived from the Semitic root r-h-m which indicates something of the utmost tenderness which provides protection and nourishment, and that from which all of creation is brought into being. And indeed, the root rhm has meanings of womb, kinship, relationship, loving-kindness, mercy, compassion, and nourishing-tenderness.

Thus, both rahman and rahim point toward that which emerges from the source of all creation, while also conveying a sense of tenderness, loving-kindness, protection and nourishment.
The term rahman is a very emphatic statement, and then the sentiment is echoed by being immediately followed by the use of another form of the same root-word. Such repetition is a joyful celebration of this Divine attribute, much the same as saying "The One who is the Supreme Loving-Kindness, oh such Loving-Kindness".

These two words, rahman and rahim, also express slightly different variations of meaning, as described in the following paragraphs.

The term rahman describes that aspect of the source of all creation which is endlessly radiating, endlessly nourishing, regardless of who or what is receiving the endless flow of blessings.
Rahmân conveys the idea of fullness and extensiveness, indicating the great quality of love and mercy which engulfs all of creation without regard to any effort or request on our part.
According to Ibn Qayyum (1350 AD), rahmân describes the quality of abounding Grace which is inherent in and inseparable from the Almighty.


On the other hand, the term rahim describes that aspect of the source which is issued forth only in response to the actions and behavior of the recipient. It is in this manner that God takes ten steps toward us when we take even a single step toward God.

Rahîm conveys the idea of constant renewal and giving liberal reward in response to the quality of our deeds and thoughts.

According to Ibn Qayyum (1350 AD), rahîm expresses the continuous manifestation of the Grace in our lives and its effect upon us as a result of our own activities.
ir rahman ir rahim:

Rahman points toward the Beneficent One whose endless outpouring of love and mercy are continually showered upon all of creation, while Rahim points toward the Merciful One whose love and mercy are manifested in that which is received as the consequence of one's deeds.
So, the phrase ir rahman ir rahim is a recognition and honoring of the very source of all existence, the source of all blessings, the source of all compassion, the source of all mercy who gives endlessly to us and who also responds according to our moral integrity, our harmony with all of creation and our love of Allah.

Poetic Renderings:

There is no way for any one translation to capture the many facets of this beautiful phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim. Here are some poetic renderings that attempt to capture some aspects of the meaning without being literal translations:

With every breath that we breathe, may we be ever aware of the Divine Presence, the Source of all that we receive.

With every step that we take, may we always honor the Light which guides us, the Source and Nourisher of all of creation.

Every moment of this life is filled with your eternal radiance my Beloved, You are the
Beneficent One who endlessly showers all of creation with nourishment and blessings, and the One who generously rewards those who live in harmony with Your Divine Will.


The words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim are so magnificent, so inspiring, so joyous that they have long attracted the hand of calligraphers who have used pen and ink to bring this phrase to life. The samples of calligraphy on this page are all renderings of the magnificent words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.


The magnificence of the meaning of these words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim brings out music from somewhere deep in my soul, celebrating the majesty and glory of the One.... and you can find some of these songs, on my music page.

with love, wahiduddin

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Scholars try to reconcile problematic religious texts ...

The following article is an appropriate context when reflecting on the meaning of Sura 1:6-7

Scholars try to reconcile 'problematic' religious texts

Christian, Jewish and Muslim experts met this week to add context to passages that have been perceived as hostile toward other faiths.

By K. Connie Kang, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 20, 2007

Speaking with mutual respect and sensitivity, prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars and clergy from around the country met in Los Angeles this week to "wrestle" with what one rabbi described as the "dark side" of the three faith traditions.

Experts cited "problematic" passages from the Hebrew Scripture, the New Testament and the Koran that assert the superiority of one belief system over others.

As an example, the Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, ecumenical and interreligous official of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, quoted from the Gospel of Mark: "Go into the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

Rabbi Reuven Firestone, director of the Institute for the Study of Jewish-Muslim Interrelations at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, mentioned a series of texts, including a verse from Deuteronomy: "For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God: of all the peoples of the earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people."

And Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh (Islamic Law) Council of North America, quoted from the Koran:

"You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies: they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them -- God does not guide such wrongdoers."

In explaining the passage from the Gospel of Mark, Smith said that the troubling portion was appended a century after it was written -- when the four Gospels were compiled.

He said the longer ending, which added 12 verses, was written at a time when Christians either were questioning their faith in the resurrection of Jesus or defending it against skeptics and nonbelievers.

Siddiqi took up the quote from the Koran, found in Chapter 5, verse 51, explaining that the problem lies not in the text, but in its interpretation.

"Some extremists among Muslims use this text to say that Muslims should not trust non-Muslims," he said. "Some Islam bashers use this text to claim that Islam is an unfriendly religion," said Siddiqi, who is also chairman of the Shura Council of Southern California.

He said the verse was revealed to the prophet Muhammad after the Battle of Hadh, when Muslims of Medina were overwhelmed by a larger number of nonbelievers from Mecca. "After that, Muslims were very frightened," he said. "Some, who were weak in their faith, said, 'We are going to make alliance with Jewish people, in order to find protection there.' Some said, 'We are going to make alliance with Christians, so we'll have protection there.' "

The idea behind the verse is not that Muslims should shun Jews and Christians, but that they should stand up on their own feet and do their best, he said.

Firestone addressed the references to the Israelites as God's elect in the books of Deuteronomy, Exodus and Amos.

"Why did God favor Israel?" he asked. "Why did God make the oath to the Israelite ancestors? The answer to these questions is not provided clearly in the text."

He believes the origin of "chosen-ness" stems from the structure of tribal religion in the ancient Middle East. "Each of Israel's neighboring communities seems to have had its own ethnic or national God," he said.

Firestone said that all monotheistic traditions are confronted with the problem of chosen-ness and that "we all need to work through this absolutely basic notion in each of our religious systems."

Keynote speaker Mary C. Boys, a professor of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, said that though writers of the Gospels differ in their accounts of Jesus' passion and crucifixion, all cite Jews as primarily responsible for his death.

She finds two texts especially troublesome -- one in which Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, says, "I am innocent of this man's blood," and the crowd answers, "His blood be on us and our children!"

"This is troubling because Imperial Rome had far more to do with the death of Jesus than the Gospels reflect," she said. "Even more troubling is the way in which early Christian teachers built upon this charge as the rivalry with Judaism widened and deepened."

Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, which co-sponsored the event with Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said all people of faith need to "take ownership of their most difficult texts, wrestle with them -- not run away from them -- but confront them, where appropriate, set them in their proper historical context."After wrestling, I hope people can understand these texts in the appropriate contexts and realize that not all of them, but many of them, are bound by conditions of social milieu, of culture, of historical context.

"In some instances, he continued, people of faith need to say to themselves, "This is part of my sacred tradition, but I reject it. I find this text offensive. It goes against my own morality, and it goes against what I believe God expects of me in the world today."

That calls for a great deal of theological introspection, education and courage, he said.

Called "Troubling Tradition: Wrestling With Problem Passages," the program at the Luxe Hotel in Bel-Air on Monday and Tuesday was the second in a series of four international conferences initiated by the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University.

"We want to foster serious theological and moral thinking about those aspects of our traditions . . . that are intolerant and delegitimizes the other and have been used by extremists to foster violence and hatred," said Rabbi Eugene Korn, executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding. "It's absolutely critical now because of the increase in religious violence and extreme hostility."

The first conference was held last year in Connecticut. There will be conferences in Germany in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2009. The papers presented at the conferences will be published as a book and posted on the Internet.

Speakers at the Los Angeles conference also included Rabbi Elliott Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at American Jewish University, and Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Conservative Christian Ann Coulter's recent comment about Jews needing to be "perfected" by converting to Christianity was mentioned only in passing.

"Panelists and presenters chose not to dignify her remarks with a response," Diamond said.

Jerry D. Campbell, president of the Claremont School of Theology, summed up the event:

"God is challenging us to take the idea of troubling texts to the next level, to begin a new conversation across faiths and throughout the world, with the goal of realizing God's own hope that all God's creation may learn to live harmoniously together."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Divine Anger (1:7)

"It is to be noted that God's Anger is not specifically mentioned in the last verse; it is those who are the objects of anger, those who elicit the anger that are referred to; the subject of the anger can be either God or the soul or both, the one being an aspect of the other. On the contrary, the divine Mercy is stressed again and again, and the sole act directly attributed to God in this prayer is blessing: The Muslim seeks to be guided along the straight path, the path of those whom God has blessed. One is drawn into the mystery expressed more directly in this verse: "Whatever good comes to you is from God, and whatever evil comes to you is from your own soul." (4:79). And, more explicitly: "We have tied every man's augury to his own neck, and We shall bring forth for him on the Day of Judgment a book that he will find open wide. (It will be said to him:) Read your book. Your own soul suffices this day unto you as a reckoner" (17:13).

In the light of these and several other verses, one is able to move from an anthropomorphic conception of divine Anger to an ontological one: Rather than picture God as some gigantic man in the sky who punishes and forgives at will, one is drawn into the mysterious depths of the true nature of being. Ruptures in being must needs rectified, not by some arbitrary act by a capricious individual, but by the immutable principles of justice and peace, truth and love, principles of which the ultimate nature of Reality is woven. In the mystical tradition of Islam it is said that the "Anger of God" is nothing but the extrinsic consequence of the lack of the soul's receptivity to the mercy that eternally radiates from the very nature of being. This mercy is calling out to the soul in every moment, and it is for the soul but to respond in order to be given beatific life in the Real: "O you who believe, respond to God and the Messenger when He invites you to that which gives you life" (8:24)."

~ Excerpt from Reza Shah-Kazemi's My Mercy Encompasses All, pp. 9-10

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My Mercy Encompasses All Things (7:156)

"The divine Names most clearly associated with mercy and compassion are given in the formula by which every significant act in Islam is consecrated, and with which every chapter of the Koran begins (with the exception of Chapter 9), the formula known as the basmala: "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" (bismi'Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim). The two Names, al-Rahman and al-Rahim, share the same root (r-h-m), and both express rahma, the meaning of which comprises the qualities of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, loving goodness. "Call upon Allah or call upon al-Rahman," the Koran tells us, expressing the quasi-equivalence between "the Compassionate" and God as such, thereby indicating the defining characteristic or "identity" of the ineffable One, "whichever of these two (Names) you call upon, unto Him belong the most beautiful Names." (17:110).

Given the fact that among the divine Names one also finds "the Almighty," "the Avenger," and other Names expressive of divine rigor, it is of great significance that the formula of consecration contains a repetition of the theme of mercy; one might have thought it more "logical" or balanced to include a name of rigor in this definitive consecration describing the essential nature of "God" in whose name one begins everything, and this have something like: "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Powerful." The very fact that two Names of Mercy are given in this formula, which inaugurates the revelation and consecrates every act of significance for the Muslim, allows one to see that the essential nature of ultimate Reality is compassionate and merciful, these two qualities being expressive of the overflow of infinite love.

In the spiritual tradition of Islam, great stress is placed on love as being the fountainhead of creation. "I was a hidden treasure," God declares, "and I loved to be known, so I created the world." The Names of Mercy, al-Rahman and al-Rahim, give voice to this creative impulse of divine love, and they are both related to the word rahm, which means "womb." Here one glimpses another mystery of the all-embracing oneness of mercy: Just as the womb entirely envelops the embryo growing within it, the divine "matrix" of compassion contains and nourishes the whole corpus of existence unfolding within itself. The qualities of divine anger are not being denied in this perspective; rather, they are seen as the inevitable consequences of human sin. The latter is by definition limited and relative, so the divine qualities elicited by relativity cannot be placed on the same level as those that flow forth from the very nature of the Absolute. Thus we are told not only that "My Mercy encompasses all things" but also that "My Mercy takes precedence over My Anger." On the one hand, there is the rigorous restoration of an equilibrium ruptured by the sins of relative beings; on the other, the merciful reintegration of purified souls within the beatific nature of the Absolute.

The Koran describes the divine Mercy in a manner that is as inspiring as it is overwhelming: God's love is infinite and thus His Mercy is given to us "beyond all reckoning," beyond anything "deserved" by us; this is a key dimension of the spiritual justice of God: "Whoever comes (before God) with a good deed will receive ten like it; but whoever comes (before God) with an evil deed will only be requited with its like; and no injustice will be done to them" (6:160).

~ Excerpt from "My Mercy Encompasses All" by Reza Shah-Kazemi, pp. 5-8

Monday, September 24, 2007

Diversity of Interpretations

We are all aware that we live in a world where diversity is often evoked as a threat and, more particularly, where diversity in the interpretation of a faith can be seen as a sign of disloyalty. This phenomenon is sometimes perceived to apply principally to Muslims, but it also exists in other societies. Absolutist, exclusivist, and rejectionist claims to the truth, especially to religious truth, are increasingly heard from all quarters. Rather than seeing religion as a humble process of growth in faith, some people presume to claim that they have arrived at the end of that journey and can therefore speak with near-divine authority.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the Muslim world today, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic, and worsening, problems. Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion amongst some Muslims, and other people, that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.

Our Ismaili tradition, however, has always accepted the spirit of pluralism among schools of interpretation of the faith, and seen this not as a negative value, but as a true reflection of divine plenitude. Indeed, pluralism is seen as essential to the very survival of humanity. Through your studies you have known the many Quranic verses and hadiths of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that acknowledge and extol the value of diversity within human societies. You all know, I am sure, the hadith to the effect that differences of interpretation between Muslim traditions should be seen as a sign of the mercy of Allah.

~ excerpt from a speech by Prince Rahim Aga Khan at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in 2007.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Batin or the Origin of al-Fatiha.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr addresses the inner meaning of the Divine Revelation in his chapter entitled "The Quran - the Word of God, the source of knowledge and action." It is instructive to note that any profound understanding of al-Fatiha and hence any translation will depend on the spiritual capacity of the translator(s):

"It is essential to realize that we cannot reach the inner meaning of the Quran until we ourselves have penetrated into the deeper dimensions of our being and also by the grace of heaven. If we approach the Quran superficially and are ourselves superficial beings floating on the surface of our existence and unaware of our profound roots, then the Quran appears to us also as having only a surface meaning. It hides its mysteries from us and we are not able to penetrate it. It is by spiritual travail that man is able to penetrate into the inner meaning of the sacred text, by that process which is called ta'wil or symbolic and hermeneutic interpretation, just as tafsir is the explanation of the external aspect of the book.

The Arabic term ta'wil contains etymologically the meaning of the process involved. It means literally to take something back to its beginning or origin. To penetrate into the inner mysteries of the Quran is precisely to reach back to its Origin because the Origin is the most inward, and the revelation or manifestation of the sacred text is at once a descent and an exteriorization of it. Everything actually comes from within to the outside, from the interior to the exterior and we who live 'in the exterior' must return to the interior if we are to reach the Origin. Everything has an interior (batin) and an exterior (zahir), and ta'wil is to go from the zahir to the batin, from the external to the inner meaning. The word phenomenon itself brings up the question 'of what.' which implies the existence of a noumenon. Evn Kant conceded the necessity of noumena but because he limited the intellect to reason he denied the possibility of our coming to know them. But when intellectual intuition is present and under the guidance of revelation one can penetrate the appearance to that reality of which the appearance is an appearance; one can journey from the exterior to the interior by this process of ta'wil, which in the case of the Quran means coming to understand its inner message.

The idea of penetrating into the inner meaning of things is to be seen everywhere in Islam, in religion, philosophy, science and art. But it is particularly in the case of the Quran that ta'wil is applied especially by the Sufis and the Shi'ah. To demonstrate the traditional basis of this important doctrine we quote two traditions, one from a Sunni and the other from a Shi'ite source. There is a famous tradition of the sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq as follows: 'The Book of God contains four things: the announced expression ('ibarah), the allusion (isharah), the hidden meaning related to the suprasensible worlds (lata'if), and the spiritual truths (haqa'iq). The literary expression is for the common people ('awamm); the allusion is for the elite (khawass); the hidden meaning is for the friends of God (or saints) (awliya'); and the spiritual truths are for the prophets (anbiya').

There is also a Hadith of the Prophet as transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas, one of the most respected transmitters of Hadith in Sunni sources, as follows: One day while standing on Mt. 'Arafat he made an allusion to the verse 'Allah it is who hath created seven heavens, and of the earth the like thereof.' (LVX, 12) and turned to the people saying 'O men! if I were to comment before you this verse as I heard it commented upon by the Prophet himself you would stone me.' What does this statement mean but that there is an inner meaning to the Quran not meant for anyone except those who are qualified to hear and understand." (Ideals and Realities of Islam, 1967, pp. 58-59).

Those who have gone astray...

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, noted scholar of Islam, suggests that those who have gone astray are those who fail to use their intelligence correctly:

"This is not the place to analyse fully the Arabic word al-'aql which means both reason and intellect and although used to mean reason is also what binds us to God. In fact one of the meanings of the root 'aql is to tie or to bind. The Quran calls those who have gone astray from religion as those who cannot intellect, 'la ya'qilun, those who cannot use their intelligence correctly. It is very significant that the loss of faith is equated in Quranic language not with corruption of the will but with the improper functioning of intelligence.

Herein lies one of the major distinctions between the Islamic and Christian points of view, one that makes it difficult for many Westerners to understand the nature of the Islamic perspective. Christianity is essentially a mystery which veils the Divine from man. The beauty of Christianity lies in the acceptance of God as a mystery and in bowing before this mystery, in believing in the unknown as St. Augustine said. In Islam, however, it is man who is veiled from God. The Divine Being is not veiled from us, we are veiled from Him and it is for us to try to rend this veil asunder, to try to know God. Our intelligence is not a Luciferian faculty but a God-given instrument whose ultimate object is God Himself. Islam is thus essentially a way of knowledge; it is a way of gnosis (ma'rifah). It is based on gnosis or direct knowledge that however cannot by any means be equated with rationalism which is only an indirect and secondary form f knowledge. Islam leads to that essential knowledge which integrates our being, which makes us know what we are and be what we know or in other words integrates knowledge and being in the ultimate unitive vision of Reality."
(Ideals and Realities of Islam, 1967, p. 21-22)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Psychology of the Qur'an.

“Last, but not least in significance, it must be constantly remembered that the Qur’an is not just descriptive but is primarily prescriptive. Both the content of its message and the power of the form in which it is conveyed are designed not so much to “inform” men in any ordinary sense of the word as to change their character. The psychological impact and the moral import of its statements, therefore, have a primary role. Phrases like “God has sealed their hearts, blinded their eyes, deafening them to truth” in the Qur’an do have a descriptive meaning in terms of the psychological processes described earlier; but even more primarily in such contexts, they have a definite psychological intention: to change the ways of men in the right direction. Thus, all our clarifications and interpretations of such usages in the Qur’an – psychological (in the sense of both a process and an intended effect), factual and moral – operate jointly and must be properly understood and assigned proportionate roles.” (Major Themes of the Qur’an, Fazlur Rahman, p. 22-23, 1989).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Broad psychological themes of al-Fatiha

There are a number of psychological themes and applications which can be discerned in the seven sacred verses of al-Fatiha, also known as al-Hamd:

1. The intellectual, emotional, psychological and spiritual strengths derived from the regular recitation and practice of al-Fatiha.
2. Secular theories such as the psychology of gratitude, imaginal psychology, and the psychology of aesthetics and how they may serve to inform and enhance the practice of salat and du'a
3. Solutions provided by al-Fatiha in maintaining one's mental health.

Some of these themes can be summarized briefly such as:

1. The daily, multiple recitations of al-Fatiha by a Muslim cultivates and maintains a consistent, intimate and spiritual relationship with the Divine. This refers to the Bismillah..The al-Fatiha is also recited in an infant's ear in some communities of Islam, so this is a familiar sound for most Muslims from infancy..

2. The praise of Allah invokes the imagination as it does the expression of gratitude. The psychology of gratitude and the psychology of aesthetics both indicate that these expressions produce positive emotional and mental states of well-being, thus providing a daily regime of spiritual and emotional supports for maintaining one's mental health. The shadow side of this verse is that one can easily rely on the practice of "spiritual bypass" and hence diminish one's capacity for empathy for the Other. The "bright shadow" aspect of these verses is that its application and internalization can prevent self-inflation and narcissism.

3. Asking for guidance on the "siratal mustaqeem" for "us" (note that this is a request for guidance for more than just one individual) invokes a "purpose driven life" and creates a sense and an experience of community. Both these experiences have positive influences on the practitioner as they relate to being goal-directed and developing an ethical foundation to life within a community of faith. James Hillman, a renowned archetypal psychologist suggests that the ideal form of individuation is the interiorization of "community," not just the interiorization of Self, capital S.

4. The pre-requisites and qualifications mentioned about the Sirat al mustaqeem invoke an imaginal psychology around those who have earned the favor of Allah, those who have earned Divine Wrath and those who have strayed off the path. This creates a frame of reference about the human enterprise, linking us beyond the Ummah to all of humankind. It brings forward the guidance of all the 124,000 prophets and the faiths to which they may be affiliated. Hence, there is also implicit in the recitation of al-Fatiha a suggestion of a perennial philosophy that has come to all communities of faith since the dawn of human life.

These ideas are being developed and explored by me for a doctoral dissertation from a phenomenological, hermeneutic and developmental perspective. It may also consider an alchemical and depth psychological perspective in the sense that al-Fatiha is a transformative agent of self-realization for every Muslim.

This research will require submissions from a wide variety of Muslims of all ages, denominations, cultures, linguistic, educational and professional backgrounds. I would be very grateful if you would be willing to encourage those in your families and community of faith to respond to this research request.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where is the Love?

"The Universal Intellect is named Allah, deriving from the word wulh, which means passionate, ecstatic, all consuming love. It feels such love for the Divine Essence which originated it, and in its intoxication it literally ceases to exist, for alongside the Divine Essence there is nothing. On its own level (ritbah), though, it is Pure Being, extending out to infinity, encompassing an infinite number of worlds..."
~ Shaykh Abd al-Hakeem Carney

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In memoriam to a Shia scholar of Islam.

If you scroll down to the end of this post, you will find a quotation from William James, the American psychologist renowned for his work "The Varieties of Religious Experience." From his essay "Is Life Worth Living?" James' thoughts are offered in memoriam to the recent loss of a Shia scholar of Islam, Shaykh Abd al-Hakeem Carney:


He completed his BA in Social Sciences at Providence College in 1999, where his course-work focused on political science and military history. He did his MA work at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was a Ph.D candidate there. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on early Shi'ite hadith literature, focusing on the mystical doctrines contained in the texts written before or shortly after the period of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. He studied the Arabic language in Egypt and in London, and completed his studies in the Shi'ite hawzah with scholars in London, completing the levels of muqaddimah, sutuh, as well as studying dars al-kharij, the highest level of study in the Shi'ite hawzah. He was entered into the Shi'ite clergy by Ayatullah Bahr al-Ulum in London in 2001.

Academic work

His published academic work includes:
"The Desacralisation of Power in Islam", published in the Keston Journal of Religion, Society, and the State
"What is Political Islam? Towards a New Taxonomy", published in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Yearbook
"Imamate and Love: The Discourse of the Divine in Islamic Mysticism" in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion;
"The Personal Imam: Imamate and Epistemology in the Thought of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i", published in the Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies
"Theos Agnostos: Shaykhi and Ismaili Perspectives," published in the Journal for Islamic Studies.
He was working to publish a dars al-kharij level work in Arabic on the theory of wilayat al-faqih, entitled 'Wilayat al-Faqih al-Mutlaqaha fi al-Mizan al-Fiqhi', as well as a partial translation of the book `Fiqh al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq' of Ayatullah Muhammad Jawad Mughniyya. He has also translated the work of 'Mantiq al-Muzhafr', an important introductory text on formal logic that is used in the Shi'ite seminary.


Shaykh 'Abd al-Hakeem taught philosophy and logic at the Islamic College for Advanced Studies in London, Islamic and Religious Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Shaykh 'Abd al-Hakeem has spoken at Islamic Centers throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, including the Imam Khu'i Centre in London and New York, the Islamic Centre of America in Dearborn, Michigan, the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, the Grand Mosque of Parma outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and many other smaller centers throughout the United States and the UK.

May his soul rest in Eternal Peace and be guided, surrounded and protected by the Light of Ali.

Retrieved from ""


"If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight - as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem; and first of all to redeem our own hearts from atheisms and fears. For such a half-wild, half-saved universe our nature is adapted.

The deepest thing in our nature is this Binnenleben (hidden life, hidden self)...this dumb region of the heart in which we dwell alone with our willingnesses and unwillingnesses, our faiths and fears. As through the cracks and crannies of caverns those waters exude from the earth's bosom which then form the fountain-heads of springs, so in these crepuscular depths of personality the sources of all our outer deeds and decisions take their rise. Here is our deepest organ of communication with the nature of things." (William James, April 1895)

The Straight Path is Ali

The following was an ongoing translation of the book 500 verses Revealed About Imam Ali (خمس مائة آية نزلت في أمير المؤنين) by Al-Hafiz Rajab al-Barsi. The book is an exploration of the inner and counter connections of Imam Ali and the Holy Qur'an. The translation was underwork by Shaykh 'Abd al-Hakeem Carney, who journeyed onwards to another realm on July 10, 2007. His translation is offered here in memoriam.

500 Verses Revealed About Imam Ali - Chapter One
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Here, we will begin by explaining the verse bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim (بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم). The manifest meaning of this verse is safety, and the inner meaning of this verse is faith. Its words are bounty and blessing. It is the remembrance of Allah’s oneness, and it contains nineteen letters, the same as the number of letters of the five shadows which Allah wrote in Light with the right-hand of His Power in the World of Light, before He created the ages. Because of this, the Family of the Prophet have said: “Whoever reads the basmallah, taking the Family of the Prophet as their leaders, believing in their external and internal reality, the Allah will give that person a blessing for letter, a blessing that is greater than all that exists in the world.” This means that one must know that the Prophet and his Family are the beginning and end of creation, and that they are the secret of existence, and the very meaning of existence, that if it were not for them nothing would exist, and nothing would have been created. If there was not there bounteous status with Allah, nothing would be sustained. They are the bounty and the bestowers of bounty, the pure intimate friend of the Lord of Glory.

Glorious reports have been narrated concerning their noble creation. They cannot be understood except by those whose heart is pure and whose religion is true. Shaykh Abu Ja’far has narrated concerning the verse “They will be overturned in prostration” [1] that Imam Musa al-Kazhim said: “Indeed, Allah the Glorious created the light of Muhammad from the light of His existentiating command, from the light of His Glory, which is the Light of His Divinity. This was the light from which everything began, and which was manifested to Moses when he was on the Mountain of Tur Sina. Moses could not stay in his place, and was unable to bear its vision, until he collapsed in a state of absolute awe. This light was not anything except the light of Ali and the Prophet, who said: “Me and Ali were created from the side of Allah, and nobody else was created from Him except us.”

The Prophet elsewhere said: “Me and Ali were created from a single tree, and the rest of humanity were created from other trees. He created us with His Hand, and breathed into us from His Spirit, by means of His Spirit, to His Spirit. He made them in their forms, and made them guardians and witnesses over His Creation. He made them His Eye, watching over His servants, and made them His Tongue in His Land. He deposited His Knowledge with them, and entrusted His Creation to them. He thought them the Explanation [al-bayyan/البيان], and showed them the secrets of the hidden realm. He made one of them His Soul [nafs], and the other of them His Spirit [ruh]. Neither one of them will ever stand without the other. Their outermost form is humanity, and their inner form is Divinity, until they fully manifest themselves in the form of the Temple of Humanity, and the human race is finally able to gaze upon them in full. They are the Two Stations of the Lord of the Universe, and the Two Veils of the Creator of Creator. In both of them is the beginning of the Creation, and by them is sealed the truths.

“After them, the light of Fatimah was taken from the light of Muhammad, just as Muhammad was taken from the Light of Glory. From the Light of Ali and Fatima was taken the light of Hasan and Husain, just like one lantern illuminates another. They were created from lights and transferred into the loins of the good, and the wombs of the pure, who exist on the highest plane. They were moved one by one, not through despised fluid, nor through blood clots. No! They were moved as Lights, moving amongst the pure, and became manifested in the books of the great prophets. The Lord placed them in His Position above His servants. There are the ones who translate His Revelation, and speak of it, and transmit it to the servants. With them, His Power becomes manifest, and from them, His Signs are seen. By then the servants know His Self, and by them they obey His Command. If it were not for them, none would know, because He passes His Command however He wills.”

The Prophet said: “Indeed, in the bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim” and in the “al-hamdu lillahi rabb al-‘alamin” are thousands of thousands of blessings. The letter alif in them represents the covenant of Allah on His Creation. The letter ba represents the glory of Allah. The letter sin represents the brilliance of Allah. The letter mim represents the Kingdom of Allah. The lam represents his glory, and the creations submission to the walayah. The ha represents those fight against the family of Muhammad. He is ar-rahman [the Merciful] to all His Creation, and ar-rahim [the Mercy Giing] to the believing Shi’a.”

The Prince of Believers is given two special mentions in this chapter. He has made them the Wise and High, as He says “Indeed, it is in the mother of the Book with us, the High, the Wise.” [2] What this means is that He has given Ali the right to judge on the Day of Account. He is the one who will let loose and bind on that, and to him does the affair return entirely.

Allah made Ali the Straight Path. The people disagree about the Straight Path; some say that it is the Clear Book. Others say it is the religion of Allah the Glorious and Exalted, which will be the only religion accepted from people. But it is also said that it is Ali, because the book is Ali, and the true religion is love of Ali, and so the Straight Path is Ali.

Then, Allah ordered His Prophet and His Servants that they submit their guidance to the Straight Path. This is because Allah has made clear that the Path is the Book of Allah and the family of the Prophet, and for this reason has made them two, intertwined cords, with two blessings: the external blessing and the internal blessing. The external blessing is Islam, and the internal blessing is the family of the Prophet. Therefore, the external blessing is Islam, and Ali is the one with precedence in it. He is the most learned. Amongst the near relatives of the Prophet, he is the soul of the Prophet, and the blesser of the wives. He is the one who married the Mistress of the Women of the World, and his progeny continues in the two lords of the youths of paradise.

It has been reported by Anas ibn Malik from the Prophet: “We are the children of ‘Abd al-Mutallab, and we are the masters of the people of Paradise: Me, Ali, Hamzah, Ja’far, Hasan, Husayn, and the Mahdi.” And so know that the Prince of Believers is the Straight Path in this life and the next. Whoever is guided by his walayah, then he will pass over the Path with firm feet.

Allah then made the Path the most important thing, meaning that their religion is the Path of Truth. This is when He says: “The path of those whom we have blessed,” by which he refers to the family of Muhammad. Allah then described their enemies as being those whom Allah is enraged with, when He says: “Not those upon whom is your wrath.” These words have an external and internal meaning. They say that those who have His Wrath are the Jews, and those who are in misguidance are the Christians. In the internal meaning, He means those who follow the Christians and Jews in their hatred of the Family of the Prophet, are those who have the wrath of Allah upon them, and are in misguidance. As far as the sunnah is concerned, the Prophet said: “You will follow the paths [sunnan] of those who came before, in every identical way.” In the narration of Abu Sa’id, the Prophet added: “…even if they follow a lizard under its stone, so will you do so.” The Prophet said to Ali: “You are the one over whom they will fight. You have a quality of Jesus. Just as the Jews hated him, so much so that they slandered his mother, and just as the Christians loved him, so much they claimed he was God. There will be those who follow you who will enter the Paradise because of your love, and there will be a people who will hate you, and will enter Hell on account of their hate, and you will have done nothing wrong.”

He is similar to Jesus insofar as the intense hatred that the Jews had towards him, and the intense love that the Christians had of him. Whoever turns away from the love of Ali is those of whom Allah says in this chapter when he says “Those upon whom is Allah’s wrath”, and this refers to the human beings of this community who have turned into animals.. As far as those whom Allah speaks of when He says, “the misguided”, it is those who are excessive in their love of Ali. May Allah curse those unrelenting haters of Ali, and all who fight against him out of petty jealousy.

Shu’ara 119
Zukhruf 4