Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Eighth Clime

I wanted to include this section from one of Henry Corbin's works here on my blog because it helped me to understand certain Quranic verses that would have otherwise remained a complete mystery to me - particularly Sura 18:84

The historian Tabari (9th century) has preserved for us some of the earliest information available about a mysterious region, which his description enables us to identify as the "Earth of the Emerald Cities." Two cities situated there - Jabarsa and Jabalqa- to which the traditions we shall study here add a third city, Hurqalya; the name Hurqalya is then used to designate this mystic country as a whole...

Jabarsa and Jabalqa, Tabari tells us are two emerald cities that lie immediately beyond the mountain of Qaf. Like those of Heavenly Jerusalem, their dimensions express quaternity, the symbol of perfection and wholeness. The surface of each is a square, the sides measuring twelve thousand parasangs. The inhabitants do not know of the existence of our Adam, nor of Iblis, the Antagonist; their food consists exclusively of vegetables; they have no need of clothing, for their faith in God makes them like angels, although they are not angels. Since they are not differentiated by sex , they have no desire for posterity. Lastly, all their light comes to them from the mountain of Qaf, while the minerals in their soil and the walls of their towns (like those of the archetypal paradise of Yima) secrete their own light. This indication already puts us on the way to establishing the identity of the mountain with the mysterious cities. It is said, in fact, that in this mountain "there is neither sun, nor moon, nor stars." Now we know that in the Ptolemaic system a characteristic of the ninth Sphere, which comprises the totality of the celestial Spheres and communicates diurnal movement to them , is that it is a heaven without constellations. Moreover, traditions specifically describe the mountain Qaf as the mountain surrounding our universe and as formed entirely of emerald, the reflection of which produces the green color (which to us looks blue) of the celestial vault. Or again, it is the rock (sakhra) forming the keystone of the celestial vault and imagined as being composed of emerald and as casting a reflection on the mountain of Qaf. What the visio smaragdina perceives her is, therefore , the cosmic mountain encircleing and overhanging our earthly habitat; the cosmic mountain was also what was perceived as encompassing the the visible horizon of Eran-Vej, in medio mundi, at the very place where the Chinvat Bridge projected from a high peak to join this cosmic mountain, whose ascent led the soul to the real of infinite Lights.

Now the geographer Yaqut expressly affirms that the mountain of Qaf was once called the Elburz. Indeed, it is the very same mountain which the "mother" of all the mountains of the world... And it is also the one climbed by the pilgrims of the spirit - as in Suhrawardi's "Recital of the Occidental Exile," for example - to reach the emerald rock looming before them like the translucent side of a mystical Sinai. And there, as at the entrance to the Chinvat Bridge of the Mazdean dramaturgy of the soul, the meeting with the archetypal Figure takes place, the celestial Person from whom the terrestrial "I" originates. Therefore the mountain of Qaf marks the boundary between two worlds, the one visible and the other invisible to the senses. In order to penetrate into the cities hidden on its further side, the mystical pilgrim must have passed beyond the evidence of the sense and common norms, must have faced the ordeals symbolized by the long journey in the Darkness across the distances that separate him from the Earth of the emerald cities.

Of course, insofar as the mountain of Qaf only lends its name to the the ancient Elburz, its primordial Image has been projected also on spaces of empirical geography (the Caucasus and its foothills on Iranian soil), which then become the theater of mythical events. On the other hand, as a primordial Image, it always marks the extremity of the world, and is inaccessible to men. To reach it, it would be necessary to walk for four months "in the Darkness"; that is why Alexander's progress through the region of Darkness is that of the archetypal spiritual hero, in Avicenna's "Recital of Hayy ibn Yaqzan," as well as in the exegesis of the Quranic Sura 18:84, describing how Alexander's Quest led him to the extreme Occident and the extreme Orient of the universe. Beyond, a region begins that includes many other cities (a country white as silver, forty days' travel in length , inhabited by angels; another country, of gold, seventy countries of musk, each ten thousand days' journey in length and breadth, etc.). In short, to penetrate into these Earths is to gain access to the intermediate climate of the "celestial souls" that move the Spheres and are preeminently endowed with pure Imagination, not depending on the senses. It is the "eighth climate," into which , as into Eran-Vej, one does not penetrate with the organs of sensory perception, but by passing through the "Source of Life", at the psycho-cosmic center.

Here we find our direction in a brief reference to the schema of the world that takes definite shape in Avicenna's cosmology. This schema divides the totality of thinkable being into a cosmic Occident and a cosmic Orient. We have already recalled percisly that this cosmic Orient is not to be sought in the East on our maps, but in the "polar dimension." In fact this Orient is the celestial pole, the "center" of all conceivable orientation. It is to be sought in the direction of the cosmic North, that of the "Earth of Light".

The "Occident" represents the sensory material world , and it is twofold: there is the "climate" of sublunar terrestrial matter, that off our material Earth, subject to generation and dissolution; and there is the "climate" of the celestial matter, that of the Spheres, consisting of an etheric substance, diaphanous and incorruptible, but still , however, deriving from the physical. The "Orient" begins from the climate of the soul: at the celestial Pole , at the emerald rock. This spiritual sun rises for the pilgrim and this dawn reveals to him the perspective of an entirely new universe, wherein are ranked successively the souls summoned to govern human bodies for a time; then the Souls whose mission it is to communicate the movement of their desire and their love to the celestial Spheres, and who are called celestial Angles (Angeli coelestes); finally, the Intelligences, who are respectively , the objects of this love and what are designated spiritual Angels or Cherubim (Angeli intellectuales). The characteristic that distinguishes Avicenna's cosmology from that of Averroes is percisly that the former includes in its structure this world of celestial Souls, in whose image the human soul is constituted, but which, unlike it, do not possess the organs of sensory knowledge. On the other hand, they are endowed with active Imagination. They even possess it in so pure and perfect a degree that their Imagination, independent, unlike ours, of sensory date, is entirely true and never weakened. Therefore, the representations that the Angels of celestial Souls may make of their universe corresponds to the situation of the human soul when its active Imagination, purified and trained, has become the imganatio vera, its organ of meditation.

So what the souls shows to itself, in this case again, as in the case of the Mazdean Imago Terrae, is percisly its own image: the Earth it projects, the Earth of Hurqalya, is the phenomenon of the Earth in its pure state, since it directly reflects the Image premeditated by the soul. The universe thus imagines, free from misleading and perishable sensory data, is therefore a function of the pure transcendental Imagination and depends only on its categories, which are a priori archetypal Images. That is why this universe is called 'alam al-mithal, the world of archetypal Images, the world of autonomous imaginative forms, or again, the world of correspondences and symbols, that is a world symbolizing with the sensory, which it precedes, and with the intelligible, which it imitates. It is a mixed world, mediating between the sensory and the intelligible; it is the center of the worlds, or again the "intermediate Orient", between the "near Orient," which is the human soul rising to consciousness of itself, and the spiritual "far Orient" constituted by the pleroma of cherubic Intelligences. Thus, as pictured by our Spirituals in their own way, it represents this intermediate kingdom between pure matter and pure Spirit, and intermediary necessary in order to validate the visionary events, the entire dramaturgy of which the should is both the subject and the scene, everything that sensory perceptions have no means to govern, impair, or supplement; everything to which the skepticism of the rational consciousness is opposed, as it is to all essentially individual cases that can neither be classified nor gauged by ordinary standards.

-Henry Corbin "Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth From Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shaikh Badruddin of Simawna On The Light Verse

"Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. A likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp- the lamp is in a glass, the glass is as it were a bright shinning star- lit from a blessed olive tree neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof gives light, though fire touches it not- light upon light.

- Quran Nur, 24:35

Nur, the divine light, is that which manifests the secret truth. Misqat, the niche, is the visible material universe. Zujaj, the glass, which is "as it were a bright shinning star," is the spirit. The oil which gives light "though fire touches it not" is Allah's attributes and beautiful names manifest in the creation. Shajarah, the blessed tree neither of the east nor of the west, is Divine Knowledge. Misbah, the lamp, is Allah's existence. The Divine Verse shows the Turth manifested in Allah's Being, in His divine knowledge, in His beautiful names and attributes, in the spirit, and in the visible material universe These are called His "five exalted Presences" which are entrusted to mankind.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Islam and the Golden Rule

I have heard it repeated ad nauseum by various anti-Islamic sources that the "Golden Rule" does not exist within Islam and that Muslims have no command to treat non-Muslims as human beings. Those with even a cursory knowledge of Islamic teaching know that such a statement is completely false. I wanted to post an example of a formulation of the Golden Rule in the Islamic Tradition by the great authority Imam Ali (pbuh) to help illuminate this.

"O my son, regard your self as a scale against which you measure your behavior with others. Hence , what you prefer for yourself, prefer it for others; what you find objectionable for yourself, treat it as such for others. Don't wrong anyone, just as you would not like to be wronged; do good to others just as you would like others to do good to you; that which you consider immoral for others consider immoral for yourself. Expect the same goodness from people what you yourself consider to be good for them. Don't say things about others which you don't like to hear being said about yourself; don't' speak things you don't know, even if what you know be little; don't tell others what you don't like others to tell you"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Imam Ali - Man of Compassion and Jihad.

I was just reading an English translation of the Nahjol Balagha of Imam Ali (pbuh) that was given me to a few days ago. In the preface to the book is a collection of accounts of various happenings in his life. I thought some of them showed the true spirit of Jihad and wanted to share them.


In the battle of Siffeen Moaawiya reached the river Euphrates before the army of Hazrat, and took position of the river. When Hazrat's army reached there he was informed that they would not be allowed a drop of water from the river. Hazrat sent a messenger to Moaawiya saying that this action was against the canons of humanity and the orders of Islam. Moaawiya's reply was:

"A war is a war therein one cannot accept principles of humanity and doctrines of Islam. My sole aim is to kill Ali and to demoralize his army and this stoppage of water will bring about these results easily and quickly."

Hazrat ordered Imam Hosayn to attack and get back the river. The attack took place and the riverside position was captured.It was then Moaawiya's turn to beseech permission to get water from the river. His messengers arrived and Ali told them to take as much water as they like and as often as they require. When his officer told him that those were the very people who had refused water to them, should they be allowed a free run on the river? He replied:

"They are human beings and though they have acted inhumanely yet I cannot follow their example and cannot refuse a man food and drink because he happens to be my worst enemy."


It was the battle of Nahrawan and he himself was fighting like any ordinary solider. During this battle a man came to face him and in the encounter lost his sword. He realized his plight standing before Ali without any weapon in hand. Ali's hand was raised for a blow when he saw the antagonist trembling with fear he lowered his hand slowly and said:

"Run away friend you are in no position to defend yourself"

This attitude made the man bold and he said:

"Ali! Why don't you kill me? I would have made one enemy less for you."

Imam Ali said: "I cannot strike a man , who cannot defend himself. You were begging for your life and it was spared."

The opponent got bolder and said:

"I am told that you have never refused a beggar. Now I beg you of your sword, will you grant it to me ?

Ali handed him over the sword. Taking possession of the sword he said:

"Now Ali, who is going to defend you against me and save you from my killing blow?"

Ali Said:

"Of course God, He will defend me if He so wills. He has appointed my death to be my guardian angel none can harm before it is due and none can save me when it arrives."

The Nobility of thought and action effected the foe and he kissed the bridle of Ali's horse and said:

" O lord, you are a great man indeed. You cannot only forsake the life of your enemy in a battle field but also can grant him your sword. May I have the honor to act as your body guard and to fight for you ?

Ali replied: "Friend, fight for truth and justice and do not fight for persons"


In the battle of Jamal in the thick of the encounter one of his servants brought him some sweet syrup saying:

" My lord the sun is very hot an you have been constantly fighting, have a glass of this cold drink to refresh yourself."

Ali looked around and replied:

"Shall I refresh myself when hundreds of people around me are lying wounded and dying of thirst and wounds? Instead of bringing sweet syrup for me take a few men with you and give each of these wounded persons a cool drink."
She replied: "My lord, they are all your enemies"

Imam Ali said: "They may be but they are human beings so attend to them".

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Poetry of Imam Khomeini.

The Sufi Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri in his autobiographical work "Son of Karbala , The Spiritual Journey of an Iraqi Muslim" describes his meeting with Imam Khomeini. In that chapter he provides a translation of one of Khomeini's Sufi inspired Irfani poems. That Khomeini had an interest in Sufism/ Irfan will probably come as a surprise to many and I wanted share the poem to shed light on this aspect of his worldview.

"Oh, I desire a cup of wine from the Beloved's own hands.
In whom can I confide this secret?
Where am I to take my grief?
I have yearned a lifetime to see the Beloved's face;
I am a frenzied moth circling a flame,
A wild rue seed pod roasting in the fire.
See my stained cloak and this prayer-rug of hypocrisy;
Can I , one day, tear them to shreds at the tavern door? "
- Imam Khomeini

You can purchase "Son Of Karbala" here.

::EDIT:: Feb 5 O9 .
Found translations of some of his other poems!


Oh my Beloved!
After witnessing your Infinite Beauty
I become entangled.
Seeing, the manifestation of Your Glory
I become saturated with joy and ecstasy.
I forget my own existence
and proclaimed the slogan - "I am the truth",
and like the Mansoor Hallaj
volunteered my self for hanging.
The agony and pain of your love
has burnt my entire existence.
That I become fed up with my own self,
and my affairs become the talks of the town.
Let the doors of the tavern be opened,
and let us go there day and night.
Because, I become disgusted with the Mosque
as well as the School.
I took off the dress of asceticism and dissimulation.
And become awakened
after wearing the robe of a tavern's haunter.
The town's preacher with his preaching
made me uncomfortable
Therefore I sought refuge in some on who was inwardly
upright but outwardly lewd.


O for the day
That I be the dust of his way
That I give up life for him
That his true lover I stay
O for the day
That a cup soul- stirring
I get from his kind hand
And, forgetting both worlds
Be chained to his hair's strand
O for the dayThat my head be at his feet
Kissing till life's time is up
And I be, till doomsday
Drunken from his cup
O for the dayThat I burn like a lover
Always for him and gaze
At his sweet face
In drunkard's daze
O for the day
That I be fully drunk
In drunkard's fold
And come to know all
Its secrets untold
O for the day
That I have at bed's end
My Joseph's merriment
And if not, like Jacob
Be enamored of his scent
- Imam Khomeini

For more information on the influence of Irfan and Islamic Mysticism on the worldview of Imam Khomeini:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lord of the Haram

Watch out: dawn and revelation
of the eternal face;
Being's King raises battle banners
from the field of Nonexistence.
A rich man goes to a party;
he needs no servant but
one goes along anyway, gets invited in;
and even that servant
is a morning star, gleaning its light
by rubbing its face against Eternity

The Unseen , the Forbidden
When it yearns to reveal itself
and raises its torches high
above the abyss
to create in its Power
through the order: BE!
before even the Pen
and the Tablet were known
then 'Ali's heart became that Tablet
Ahmad's tongue the Pen.

The station of "ali, Kaaba's Lord
became the heart itself
and all our circumbulations
then were abrogated,
all ritual complete- look!
The Elect are forbidden
what ordinary men must do
an outward pilgrimage denied
to men of Heart, whose pillar is the palace
of 'Ali; the lord of the Haram.

When I turn toward the prayer niche
I journey toward him
When I begin my prayers
I speak with him;
ignoring the road to Mecca.
Passing by the Black House
I circle his neighborhood
to venerate the child born within it
is all the worship the Kaaba demands.

Mercies are signs
of the Mercy of 'Ali
the books of the prophets
rehearse his tale,
paradise and its fruits
are his gifts
and the greatest gift of God
is 'Ali's sacred role.
Say yes! for this
Is God's greatest favor.

Fo'ad Kermani

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letter From a War Zone.

I'm re-posting an email sent from a person living in Gaza explaining the horrors of the Israeli Assault. Thank you Olivia for providing this!

Friday 16 January 2009

Today is number 21 of the Israeli offensive on Gaza. In Tel el-Hawa neighborhood I live. Last night witnessed the third ground offensive on the area. Air surveillance by reconnaissance has never halted for 24 hours. Because of the buzzing sound and ezzzing of those airplanes people call it Zanaana! The attack helicopters and F16s are in action at any moment. They raid and raid at different times, day and night! Each moment there is a blast somewhere, sometimes near where I am and some other times, it is a little bit far or in the distance! Anyways, managing to survive under unusual circumstances, not knowing exactly what is going on around me except from static transmission of a transistor radio. News from local radio stations lacks accuracy. It could be because their correspondents cannot move around and do not have other facilities! We heard shelling and bombing approaching to our building, and exchange of machine guns fire; more explosions! No electricity or water in the neighborhood. We took to the floor in one inside room that seemed protected to us.

The battle went on from 10:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Then, tanks pulled back and there was dreadful quietness in the whole place! It was almost half an hour when huge blasts began again; shooting by various machine guns and blast heard from almost everywhere in the neighborhood! At 7:00 a.m. we heard rumble of tanks and bulldozers moving into the residential area in Tel el-Hawa! I began to prepare my wife and children for horrible scenarios to come. They included attacking the building or the apartment, explosions and searching of the whole place with rudeness of soldiers, and worse than that. It was a night of anxiety, fear and anticipation by all means. For the whole day we were stuck in one room hearing explosions and bombings! One of my daughters was so frightened because she felt that each explosion is inside our building! On my part, with each blast, I opposed my daughters as saying, this far away from us, can you hear that! I tried to keep control over their worries and fear. With the sunset, fear and silence became the title of the night. Sky is lighted with explosions and white phosphorus bombs! With all courage and life experience, I could not convince my daughters and youngest son that this is how war goes on and we will come out of it safe and sound. Every moment was an hour in our night! My children were scared; they screamed, wept and shrunk together like a ball of flesh. It stopped for minutes, then, an explosion shook the whole building like an earthquake. It was the most horrible moments of the whole night! Later we knew that a sound bomb was thrown in a room in the fifth floor; it was the same room over the room in which we were sitting.

At 10:15 p.m. we heard knocks at our door! My children screamed for fear that it is Israeli soldiers at the door! I opened the door! It was the upstairs neighbor. He told me that in the next block, across the street from Barcelona garden (Public garden and playground constructed by the Spanish Barcelona's municipality) the Israeli soldiers explode the outside doors of the buildings and order whoever is still in his place to open the door of their apartment and light a candle, then to stay and wait inside the apartment! If there is no lighted candle at the open door, the soldiers blow up the door with explosives, then they attack the apartment, shooting and destroying everything inside! The apartment turns to a useless place for living! We prepared a candle for that moment! We also knew that the soldiers order the male tenants who hold IDs (16 years of age and above) to strip off their clothes except their under wear! They fold their eyes and manacle their hands with a plastic wire behind their backs before they pull them off to a yard outside the building. Those horrible news were from SMS and phone calls from wives and daughters in homes searched and searched by the Israeli soldiers! I started another psychological treatment of the situation. I talked to my children again saying that it will be a moment of relief when the soldiers come in and know me as a university professor so that they will not misbehave! My children were so anxious and nervous and I was did not believe my words however they remained silent without a comment or objection to what I say! Then, as we know the buildings that were searched by the soldiers, I thought that it would be four or five hours before they reach us! But who really believed me! Moment of fear as always long! Of course, no one believed ... Everyone was panic-stricken! Once more, I tried to convince my children to sleep until the army arrives, but who could! While I was thinking, I found nothing to do. ... Only one scenario remained in my mind; it was a miracle from God and pulls off the whole area by some kind of a military command for a reason or another! I was so unusually fatigued and sleepless, but the safety of my wife and children was my only concern.

There was no way to recharge the batteries of our mobile phones. Thus, all our five mobiles went off plus that mobile lines were so bad. We could hardly send off SMS! I do not know how I slept! It was 7:00 a.m.. when I opened my eyes again! It was day light again! I heard sound of generators coming from nearby buildings! I thought to myself: Was it a dream? But I heard people talking Arabic! I dared to open the balcony's door and look! There was a dead body under the balcony! I sent my son to the upstairs neighbor to ask them about the situation! They said that tanks and bulldozers pulled back at 5:00 a.m. and that they came and knocked at our door but we did not reply! I went out to see what was there! It was a more horrible scene in the street. Asphalts have been destroyed by the Israeli army bulldozers; some tenants could not come down from their apartment buildings because the army bulldozers have destroyed the outside steps of the buildings, and tenant have to climb up to go inside or jump down a 2.5 meters to come out to the street! They also destroyed side walks, electric posts, and any other thing they reached.

They destroyed two ambulances and dragged it and used it as a barricade together a large rubbish dumpster! They also destroyed a third ambulance and blocked a side road with it! They burnt a nearby medical drug store of the ministry of health. At night, our noses were stuffed by abnormally suffocating smell of the burning drugs and medicines. However, our fear was more from the white phosphorous bombs that aircrafts used against targets in the same street. Also, the army evacuated one of the three buildings of Al-Quds hospitals next block to the east from me; they ordered the patients to instantaneously leave and walk off on foot for almost one kilometer when they burnt the whole five floor building! One of the patients was a woman who gave birth to three babies the same night! They also burnt the hospital's Emergency Room! They shoot two tank shells at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (P.R.C.S.) which is located just across the street from my apartment building! P.R.C.S. building inflected damages from inside! The Ambulance Center of P.R.C.S. which is in the same building inflected damages as well. Now, I will tell you about where I live! By then, it became clearer to me why my daughters were so scared to death! In last nights bombing, tanks shot nine shells at our building destroying and burning all the seven apartments that overlook the main street and P.R.C.S.! Luckily, my apartment was in the back! I felt how lucky I was! Thank you Almighty God, all of us, my family and I are still alive!

Six of the apartments have been totally destroyed on its furniture and turned to war zone! Everything inside the apartments became useless! One of the seven apartments was totally burnt; blaze was due phototonus bomb or more. The apartment was owned by Dr. Sami el-Deeb; he holds PhD from a German University and an assistant professor of pharmaceuticals at Al-Azhar University of Gaza. The other apartments belong to other teaching staff from Al-Azhar University of Gaza which is known as loyal to Fatah. It was obvious for everyone that no one from Hamas or its supporters lives in the bombed building! It was also obvious that Israel targeted the Palestinian people and life. Among other civil society's institution targeted was the Palestinian Universities Teachers Society. They also targeted and destroyed headquarters of the Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). Neither of the two institutions belongs to Hamas at all! At 9:30 a.m. two P.R.C.S. ambulances arrived at the scene; paramedics evacuated 23 dead bodies from the neighborhood.

After all that threat, suffering, pressure, intimidation and horrific scenes, I decided to leave my apartment to save the lives of my wife and children. I am in a safer place now, but I do not have access to the internet except occasionally!

Sunday 18 January 2009 (Day 22 invasion time!)

Today is 22 invasion time! I can see destruction and brutality everywhere! The Israeli air force executed 70 raids on Gaza Strip. They bombed everywhere including an UNRWA school populated by displaced Palestinians under protection of UNRWA. Early reports mention death and other casualties in the school. It's the third UNRWA school that F16 Israeli American-made tanks targeted! The precincts of UNRWA were never safe!

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) is a non-profit organization concerned with agricultural matters, farmers and faming. No one in PARC is a Hamas member or sympathizer! It's a highly professional NGO with strong relations with Europe NGOs working in the filed of agriculture! PARC's headquarters and main offices in Gaza have been targeted and totally demolished!

Palestinian Universities Teachers' Society in Tel el-Hawa is a social institution. The whole two storey building was destroyed by Israeli warships! The society hosts university professors from Al-Azhar and Al-Aqsa universities which are known as loyal to Fatah. The society was like a social club where university staffs meet to talk, watch TV.

Israel declared one sided ceasefire, but fire from Israeli army did not stop; reconnaissance planes and helicopter are in the sky; between now and then F16s fly overheads. Last nigh, the Israeli army exploded the house of Hussein Al-Aiedy, and the other homes of his two brothers, to the east of Gaza city though house was evacuated in day 15 of the attack! They were evacuated with sincere humanitarian efforts of NGOs. They left everything behind in their homes. Now, its all rubbish!

More than 40 UNRWA schools have been occupied by thousands of displaces people. The whole scene is really miserable and life turned to be inhumane for those unlucky people! Hundreds of homes demolished or burnt or became within the Israeli tanks control and activities, thus they were ordered by the Israelis to leave their places!

This morning, search under rubble of demolished homes found more than 50 dead bodies. Search is still underway. They still cannot reach where the Israeli tanks stop. I believe that there are hundreds of other bodies to be taken out and buried. Upon their arrival back home, the Norwegian medical team (Two surgeons) mentioned that what they witnessed in Gaza is more savage than what they saw in the civil war in Rwanda - Africa!

Its tremendously horrendous time before ceasefire and the irony is that shooting is still going on; air raid on somewhere in Khan Younis town minutes ago killed three people!

To the east of Gaza city only, more than 10 square kilometers of agricultural fields, productive trees; olives, fruits and others have been destroyed by Israeli army bulldozers, tanks, artillery, vehicles, and military roads were constructed on those fields. Moreover 50% of the cultivable land is now under the control of the Israeli military! All farmers were humiliated and kicked off their simple homes. Now, they are homeless living in UNRWA schools and elsewhere. Many families sought refuge in the Lawyer's Syndicate but they are unsafe at all as they could be targeted at any moment!

Gaza medical authorities announced a death toll of 1255, including 418 child and 118 woman, 118 elderly, plus 5500 injured. Let alone the traumatized, and panicked by the Israeli invasion. Let alone those who have not been saved or rescued and died under rubble or in the green fields! Medical doctors mentioned that hundreds of the injured will never recover and return to normal life! Hundreds will live as physically handicapped.

I have just received a phone call from a friend. He is Safwat Mushtaha. He is a businessman. He told me that his tile and road brick's factory has been totally destroyed. He bought the machines for the factory from Turkey and Germany two years ago. It is worth (a lot of money). He sadly said to me: Dr., I tell you! It's all gone! I am shocked! Other businesses were destroyed including a cooking gas station, iron casting factory, and others! Every Palestinian in Gaza Strip is a target! This is the reality! Every business in Gaza was a target! Every minute brings about more nightmares, bad news, destruction, and death. It was annihilation! It was a Holocaust!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Suhrawardi Comes to Aleppo.

I wanted to share these two paragraphs from the Introduction of "The Wisdom of the Mystic East" by John Walbridge:

"In 1183 a young man, a ragged dervish, entered Aleppo. There his learning and magical powers drew the attention of all. The prince grew to love him and became his disciple. The other learned men, jealous of his ascendancy, complained of him to the king, the great Saladin. The king feared that his son would be led into heresy, and he knew that heresy bred sedition. Twice he ordered his son to kill the dervish. Heartbroken the prince at last complied. The dervish's disciples fled, and their names were forgotten. In Aleppo people remembered him, remembered the power of his personality and his speech and how he had sought to revive the Divine wisdom of the Ancients and thereby make the age luminous and how he had perished in the attempt. " His knowledge was greater then his prudence," they said.

But he had also left books behind- brilliant allegories of the mystical and philosophical life, powerful treatises of philosophy summarizing and pointing beyond the Peripatetic philosophy of Avicenna and his school, even prayers. Above all, there was a book called "The Philosophy of Illumination", a metaphysics of light and darkness, finished one September evening in 1186 as the seven Ptolemaic planets drew together on the western horizon of Aleppo. It's interpretation , he promised, was with "him who will arise with the Book," but there was no such person, or else he was lost to history when the dervish's disciples fled. In succeeding centuries some scholars in each generation sought to bring life to the dry bones of the master's writings and to follow the arduous mystical path that lead to an intuitive understanding of philosophy of illumination. And a few still do "

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi

Having named my blog Safr-i Simurgh ( Song of the Simurgh) after a work of the great Ishraqi philosopher, Sufi, and Martyr Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi , it's probably obvious that I'm a fan of his thought. I was trying to think of something to post today and I figured it might be good to create a small list of some of the better web resources on the Shaykh al-Ishraq and on Illuminationist / Ishraqi thought in general.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top Vatican Official Calls Gaza a "Concentration Camp"

Cardinal Renato Martino , Pope Benedicts top official on issues of peace and justice, and former Vatican envoy to the UN, likened Gaza under the Israeli offensive to a "big concentration camp" in a recent interview.

The Cardinal noted that both sides in the current conflict were concerned only with their own interests . "But the consequences of this selfishness is hatred, poverty, injustice. It is always the defenseless populations that pay."

Not surprisingly Israeli officials have responded to the Cardinals statement with outrage claiming that it unfairly paints Israel as similar to the Nazi regime. Apparently the truth is a little too hard for many Israelis to digest.

Catholic News has more on this issue here:
Gaza Strip resembles a concentration camp, says top Vatican official


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jihad and Amir Abd al-Qader

"If I have accepted leadership, this is to have the right to be the first to march in the battles, and I am ready to step behind any other chief whom you judge more worthy and more capable than me to lead you, provided that he pledges to take in hand the cause of our faith."
- Amir Abd al-Qader

If one were to look for a perfect model of chivalry and the spirit of jihad one would be hard pressed to find a better example then Amir Abd al-Qader. He rallied the people of Algeria against the French occupation under the banner of Islamic Jihad. He was a man of strength and honor but also of compassion who was respected even by his enemies. One of the French leaders in Algeria even went so far as to liken him to Jesus.

Abd al-Qader was empowered in a Spiritual manner to wage Holy Jihad in a vision that came to him on his way back from the tomb of the great Sufi Shaykh Sayid Abd-el-Qader al-Jilani. In this vision Sayid Abd-el Qader al-Jilani handed him a black robe and a sword saying, "Now I entrust to you the secrets of jihad fi sabeelillah. Your trust from me is to take this knowledge, and to lead your people against the non-believers who are preventing Islam from being followed and are preventing implementing Shariah and Tariqah. Go my son, and with this sword repel those with enmity to God, and enmity to the Sunnah of the Prophet."

Wikipedia notes the following on this period of his life:

"In 1830, Algeria was invaded by France; French colonial domination over Algeria supplanted what had been domination in name only by the Ottoman Empire. Within two years, `Abd al-Qâdir was made an amir and with the loyalty of a number of tribes began a rebellion against the French. He was effective at using guerrilla warfare and for a decade, up until 1842, scored many victories. He often signed tactical truces with the French, but these did not last. His power base was in the western part of Algeria, where he was successful in uniting the tribes against the French. He was noted for his chivalry; at one occasion released his French captives simply because he had insufficient food to feed them." *

Eventually he was overpowered by the French and exiled to Damascus. When Abd al-Qader was in exile he risked his life to defend Christians from persecution and attacks by the Druze. For this effort he was given a life long pension as a reward from the French! He was also gifted with several exquisitely crafted guns by President Abraham Lincoln in honor of his actions.

Wikipedia notes the following about this event:

"While in Damascus he befriended Jane Digby and Richard and Isabel Burton. In July 1860, conflict between the Druze and Maronites of Mount Lebanon spread to Damascus, and local Druze attacked the Christian quarter, killing over 3,000 persons. `Abd al-Qâdir and his personal guard saved large numbers of Christians, bringing them to safety in his house and in the citadel. For this action the French government, which granted the amir a pension of 4000 Louis, bestowed on him the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur. He was also honoured by Abraham Lincoln for this gesture towards Christians with several guns that are now on display in the Algiers museum."*

Not only did al-Qader posses great martial and moral qualities he was also a Sufi of some note. He was an initiate of the Qadiri Sufi order and a leading authority on the thought of Ibn Arabi. His writings provide an excellent introduction to the thought of the Shaykh al-Akbar.

Last week I came across a web page dedicated to Abd al-Qader that contains a short but informative video.

As Muslim we must give thanks to Allah (swt) that He has blessed us with such examples!

Henry Corbin Memorialized in Iran.

This is old news but I thought I would post it anyway because I found it interesting and I've always loved the works of Henry Corbin. This article appeared in the Iran Daily on June 29 2005:

"TEHRAN, June 28--A plaque to commemorate the noted French philosopher Henry Corbin was unveiled in a ceremony here Monday which was attended by the French Ambassador to Iran Francois Nicouloud, reported IRNA. The plaque was installed at the intersection of Neauphle-le-Chateau and Marjan streets in downtown Tehran. Meanwhile, Marjan Street was renamed after Henry Corbin, a philosopher who conducted extensive oriental studies and was deeply interested in Iranian culture and civilization. Speaking at the ceremony, Nicouloud said that Corbin (1903-1978) was a great philosopher who is held in high esteem in France. He successfully introduced Iranian culture, literature and civilization to the Europeans, he added. The outgoing French ambassador said that Corbin proved that culture will develop when it is opened up to others. Addressing the same gathering, Chairman of Tehran City Council Mehdi Chamran said that Iran and France have friendly relations and hoped that they would further develop in all fields."

Henry Corbin Memorial Plaque Installed

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Polar Orient.

I was re-reading an old book I had " Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival" by Joscelyn Godwin and I came across a fascinating topic to discuss. That is the symbolism of the Pole and the North Star in Islamic (specifically Shiite, Ishraqi, and Sufi) teaching.

"Esoterically, however , the Persian Theosophers situated their 'Orient' neither to the East nor to the South, whither they faced in prayer towards the Ka'aba. The Orient sought by the mystic, the Orient that cannot be located on our maps, is in the direction of the north, beyond the north. “About this Pole reigns a perpetual Darkness", says the Recital of Hayy ibn Yaqzan , one of the visionary recitals of Avicenna. " Each year the rising sun shines upon it at a fixed time. He who confronts that darkness and does not hesitate to plunge into it for fear of difficulties will come to a vast space, boundless and filled with light." This Darkness, says Corbin is the ignorance of the natural man. "To pass through it is a terrifying and painful experience , for it ruins and destroy all the patencies and norms on which the natural man lived and depended..."

This book explains how the Sufi Ruzbehan of Shiraz had a series of visions referring to the heavenly Pole; and by meditating on these that he was able to understand how he was personally connected with the masters of initiation symbolized by the stars in the immediate vicinity of the Pole Star.

"This again underlines the essential individual, not social nature of theosophy. Yet it is far from being useless to the community, Just as the Platonic world of Forms gives being to the material world, so the influence of the esoteric masters and the access to them, one by one , of their destined pupils is the magnetic influence that keeps humanity from falling into complete abandonment and self destruction”

Ruzbehan, in his vision , was "given oil from the constellation of the Bear," which he seems to have recognized as an anointing, admitting him to the rank of the seven masters of initiation. On turning his attention to the Great Bear, Ruzbehan saw its seven stars as seven apertures through which God was showing himself.

The Taoist tradition also refers to seven spiritual rulers "localized" in the constellation of the Bear. The "Classic of the Pivot of Jade" gives a spiritual doctrine told in its very title, which refers to the North Star, "the pivot of Heaven revolving on itself and carrying all the heavenly bodies along with it in its round dance." It's interesting to see the unanimity among Traditions regarding the spiritual reality of the Northern Orient and the Pole. It's also telling that the Taoist called it the "Jade Pivot" as Jade is green and thats also the color of the light experienced beyond the pole in Islamic tradition*. At the summit of mount Qaf (which is also the Pole ) is the Emerald stone that is inscribed with the eternal Koran. This is also what in Hermeticism is called the "Emerald Tablet of Hermes".

The Ishraqi Theosopher and martyr Suhrawardi elaborated on the spiritual significance of the Pole in his works as well. Nai’mah Iman speaking on this aspect of the works of Suhrawardi states the following:

"The individual who is perfected in philosophy and has attained illumination is Hakim Mutaallih, literally, a theosopher, and is counted as one of that exceptional circle of sages which includes Pythagorean and Plato. Beyond this, one passes out of the human realm into that of the celestial hierarchy of invisible beings whose chief is the Qutb, the Pole, that its spiritual center for whom the spiritual hosts are representatives as they are also the means to human illumination. The Qutb can be geographically symbolized as the north celestial pole around which the vault of heaven turns. In his imaginary accounts of the soul's sojourn, the distinction between the shadowy occident and the luminous orient is turned on end, so to speak. The orient of light is the North Pole and the occident is the World of the Senses. Illumination, Ishraq, is the soul's return to its home through reason and intuition, where it will find peace and the earth through the empyrean to intimate what is beyond and covers the whole of manifest existence. Reality is Light. That Light varies in intensity from plane to plane, giving rise to the relativities of light and darkness. Light is indefinable because all degrees and things are defined in terms of it, whilst it is supremely evident."

* As expressed by the Great Sufi Najm Kobra among others.

here is the book by Ruzbehan in which he explains his various visions:

The Unveiling of Secrets: Diary of a Sufi Master


Esoteric Exegesis of the Quran.

I'm reading a great book now " Tuhfah Yi-Abbasi: The Golden Chain of Sufism in Shi'ite Islam" by Shaykh Muhammad Ali Mu'addhdhin Sabzawari Khurasani translated by M. H. Faghfoory. It had a section on the esoteric exegesis of the Quran that I wanted to share!:

In a discourse on the nature of the Quran, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq said, " The Book of Allah is of four natures: al-'ibarah, that is to say, the text, that is for the common people; al-Ishara, i.e. allusions that are for the select (khawass) al-lata'if, that is fine mysteries that are for the friends of God (awliya); and finally, al-haqa'iq, the truth which is for the Prophets (anbi'ya)."

The manifest meaning of the revelation (al-Zahir) can be understood by ordinary people (al-nas) who accept the principles of religion and observe its commands such as the daily prayers, fasting and other rituals. The inner meaning of the revelation however, can be understood only by those who have purified their hearts and those who have emptied it form anything other then God, as the Quran testifies: "Verily, this is indeed a nobel Quran , in a Book kept hidden, which none touches except the purified".

God the Almighty says in the Quran " Verily, We gave the Book as an inheritance to those whom we have selected from among our servants." It is obvious that what is meant by the Book is not only the Nobel Quran in its descended form (kitab munzal), but more importantly, the reality of the Quran that is Kitab al-maknun.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib asked the Prophet " O Messenger of God! How would I spread your message to people after you?" The Prophet answered, 'inform people of the non-manifest meaning (ta'wil) of the Quran, that is difficult for them [to understand]. Only God Knows Quran's reality and reveals it only to the Pure (mutahharun) and those who are steadfast in knowledge (rasikhun fil'ilm)" When a man asked Imam Sadiq who the steadfast in knowledge are, he replied that "They are the progeny of Muhammad."

In another discourse on the Quran, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq said:" Verily God taught His Messenger the science of interpretation of the Quran (tanzil and ta'wil), then he taught those sciences to Ali and by God, Ali taught them to us."

* * *

I also wanted to share a statement of the great Sufi Hamid Al Ghazali on the topic of Quranic exegesis as well because it ties in perfectly with the above teachings:

"The man who claims that the Koran has no meaning except that which the exoteric exegesis has transmitted is acknowledging his own limitation. He is right in his acknowledgment, but is wrong in his judgment that puts all people on the level to which he is limited and bound. Indeed, reports and traditions ( of the Prophet and others) indicate that for men of understanding there is great latitude in the meaning of the Koran. Thus 'Ali said "The Messenger of God did not confide to me anything which he concealed from people, except that God bestows understanding of the Koran upon a man." If there were no meaning other than that which has been transmitted, what then is meant by that understanding of the Koran? The Prophet said , "surely the Koran has an outward aspect (Zahr) , an inward aspect (batin), an ending and a beginning." This tradition is also related as being from Ibn Mas'ud on his own authority, and he was one of the scholars of exegesis. What then is the meaning of the outward aspect, the inward aspect, end and beginning?"

Ali said, " If I wished I could load seventy camels with the exegesis of the Opening Surah (al-Fatiha) of the Koran". What is the meaning of this, when the exoteric interpretation [of this Surah] is extremely short? Abu al-Darada said " A man does not truly understand until he attributes different perspectives to the Koran." A certain scholar said "For every Koranic verse there are sixty thousand understandings and what remains to be understood is even more ." Others have said " The Koran contains seventy seven thousand two hundred sciences, for every word in it is a science, and then that number can be quadrupled, since every word has an outward aspect, an inward aspect, an end and a beginning"

The Prophets repetition of the phrase " In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate" twenty times was only for the purpose of pondering its esoteric meanings (batin ma'aniha). Otherwise its explanation and exegesis are so obvious that someone like him would not need to repeat it. Ibn Masu said " He who desires the knowledge of the ancients and the moderns should ponder the Koran." and that is not something that can be attained merely by its exoteric interpretation".

Israeli Use of Human Shields

That Palestinians have made use of human shields in recent conflicts is an oft repeated charge by supporters of the Zionist regime. Generally these accusations imply that Palestinians have waged war from inside urban areas or in close proximity to civilian structures. What isn't as well known is that the Israelis themselves make use of human shields. They have stationed military forces within cities and they have also used Palestinians (including children!) as literal shields when going into dangerous areas.

Not only have the Israelis used these tactics in the past but it appears that they are up to their old tricks again in their current assault on Gaza as well. They have been stationing Israeli troops in houses and buildings occupied by Palestinian civilians. If these Israeli troops are attacked civilians would likely be hurt and their houses destroyed . The Israelis are hoping that these human shields will prevent Hamas fighters from targeting the IDF.

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Program director said the following:

"Our sources in Gaza report that Israeli soldiers have entered and taken up positions in a number of Palestinian homes, forcing families to stay in a ground-floor room while they use the rest of their house as a military base and sniper position,"

"This clearly increases the risk to the Palestinian families concerned and means they are effectively being used as human shields,"

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