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: