Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wedding Night of Rumi

Commemorating Rumi's Wedding Night, the Urs,
the wedding of Jalalu'ddin Rumi with the Beloved

GOD is the Beloved

Tonight take my spirit completely from my body,
That I may no longer have shape and name in the world.
At the moment I am drunk in Thee, give me another cup,
That I may be obliterated from the two worlds in Thee,
And be done with it.
When I have been annihilated through Thee
And become what Thou knowest, then will I take the cup
Of nonexistence and drink it, cup after cup.
When the spirit becomes radiant through Thee,
When the candle lights up, if not consumed by Thee, it is raw.
Give me now the nectar of nonexistence instant by instant.
When I have entered nonexistence, I will not know the house
From its roof. When your nonexistence increases, the spirit will
Prostrate itself to you a hundred times ~ O you, to whose
Nonexistence thousands of existences are slave,
Give me celestial wine, measure by measure.
Deliver me from my own existence.
Nectar is Thy special grace, intellect Thy general grace.
Send up waves from nonexistence to wash me away.
How long will I pace the ocean's shore in fear?
The snare of my king Shamsu'ddin is catching prey in
Tabriz, but I have no fear of the snare, for I am within it.

~ Ghazal 1716

Adapted from a translation by William C. Chittick
in his book The Sufi Path of Love
SUNY Press, Albany, 1983

Shebi Arus is Turkish for the Nuptial Night
The Urs is known in Persian as vesal.

GOD is the Beloved

Reunion [with the Beloved]

From this rough and fulsome world
Rumi departed
After ten sweet years with Husamuddin.*
On the day of December 17th*
Came the khalif's passing
After six hundred seventy-two years
Since the Hijra of the Prophet.*
Bereft, the eyes of mankind wept so that day
Lightning struck and burned away the souls' tears.
Quaking overtook the earth at that moment,
And in the heavens wails of mourning arose.
People of Iconium, both young and old,
Wailed, wept and sighed in lamentation.
Nearby villagers, both Greeks and Turks,
Pained at his loss, rent open their collars.
All gave the corpse their final loving respects.
Adherents of every faith proved faithful to him ~
In love with him were people of all nations.

~ SVE 121

from Sultan Valad's Valad nameh
(Persian for The Book of Valad)
also known as Ebteda nameh

Adapted from the translation by Franklin D. Lewis
in his Rumi, Past and Present, East and West
Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2000


* Sultan Valad ~ Rumi's son, his biographer, and his spiritual successor. Valad formally founded in the Mevlevi Order of Sufis, following his father's teachings.

* Husamuddin ~ a sufi shaykh in his own right, Husamuddin acted as Rumi's scribe and inspiration during the writing of the Mathnawi. The composition of the Mathnawi was suspended when Hosam al-Din's wife died and he was withdrawn in mourning. He also acted as administrator of Rumi's school in Konya.

* December 17th ~ the Gregorian calendar equivalent of the fifth day of Jumadi II. Jumadi II is the sixth month of the Muslim lunar calendar.

* Seventy two and six hundred years since the Hijra of the Prophet ~ Hijra (Arabic), the flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Makka (in September of 622 A.D. per the Christian calendar) to Medina. The Muslim calendar dates from the first day of the hijra.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Has as Sweet a Fragrance


in the name of God

The Names of God in Islam

Any endeavor undertaken by an observant muslim begins with
the invocation, whether spoken aloud or remembered silently,
"bismillah", in the name of god.

This bismillah represents a shortened form of the most frequently recurring phrase in the Qur'an,

Bismillah ar Rahman ir Rahim

in the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful


bi ~ in
ism ~ name
i ~ of
llah ~ God

bismillah ~ in the name of God

Strictly speaking, the word Allah is not a name.

It is simply the word used in Arabic to connote the God,
as opposed to a god.

The word is found in both forms in the first part of the shahadah,
the muslim profession of faith:

la ilaha illa llah ~ there is no god but god.

Some argue that the word allah is a contraction of al-ilah
[literally "the god"], since eliding the initial article is conventional in Arabic, thus forming the “name” allah.

Call it a word or a name, as you will.

Either way it means God, the one.

la ilaha illa llah ~ there is no god but god.

in arabic there are no capital letters,
not even for proper names,
so the use of capitalization below
represents a convention of orthography
of the English language.

in arabic the word is allah.

Allah, or aLlah, is simply the word for God used by
Arabic-speaking Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike when they pray.

It simply means God.

Just God.

The most common male name in Arabic is
Abdullah, which means “Servant of God.”

No muslim man may take one of the proper names of God, thus a man may be known as Latif (subtle), but never al Latif (the subtle).

Most often the prefix root “abd” is added to one of the names of God, as in Abdul Latif (servant of the subtle). This is always acceptable.

Never may a man take one of the unique names Malik al Mulk, Allah, or other names uniquely reserved as divine appellations.

The tradition of ninety-nine names of God is derived from the Qur’an.
While the names are cast in the masculine,
the attributes are cast in the feminine,
beautifully demonstrating that God is beyond gender,
even in the original arabic.

Less common, but more esoterically, most sufis also refer to
God in prayer simply by the third person singular pronoun "hu" [literally He
in English]. Hu is intoned or breathed silently in this manner almost as
a prayerful mantra ~ a primordial breath or form of om.

Remembrance or repetition of one of the names in such a way is known as dhikr or zikr, remembrance, or dhikrullah,
remembrance of God.

[A much fuller discussion of each of the 99 beautiful names of GOD,
along the lines below, can be found in The Name & the Named
by Shayk Tosun Bayrak al Jerrahi al Halveti
from Fons Vitae Press.]

Muslims consider Allah to be the greatest name of God.

Following are “al asma al husna,” the divine names,

the 99 “most beautiful names” of God:

ar Rahman ~ the Compassionate
ar Rahim ~ the Merciful

ar Rahman is the most frequent name of God used
in the Qur’an. It, along with ar Rahim, the second
most frequent name in the Qur’an, are both derived
from the Semitic root RHM, meaning “womb.”

al Malik ~ the Owner
al Quddus ~ Purity
as Salam ~ Peace
al Mumin ~ the Inspirer of Faith
al Muhaymin ~ the Protector
al ‘Aziz ~ the Victorious
al Jabbar ~ the Repairer, the Completer
al Mutakabbir ~ the Owner of Pride
al Khaliq ~ the Creator
al Bari ~ the Maker of Harmony
al Musawwir ~ the Shaper of Beauty
al Ghaffar ~ the Forgiving
al Qahhar ~ the Subduer
al Wahhab ~ the Giver
ar Razzaq ~ the Sustainer
al Fattah ~ the Opener
al ‘Alim ~ the Knower
al Qabid ~ the Constrictor
al Basit ~ the Releaser
al Khafid ~ the Abaser
ar Rafi’ ~ the Exalter
al Mu’izz ~ the Bestower of Honor
al Mudhill ~ the Humiliator
as Sami’ ~ the Hearer
al Basir ~ the Seeing
al Hakam ~ the Judge
al ‘Adl ~ the Just
al Latif ~ the Subtle
al Khabir ~ the Aware
al Halim ~ the Forebearing
al ‘Azim ~ the Absolute
al Ghafur ~ the Forgiving
ash Shakur ~ the Rewarder of Gratitude
al ‘Ali ~ the Most High
al Kabir ~ the Greatest
al Hafiz ~ the Preserver
al Muqit ~ the Nourisher
al Hasib ~ the Reckoner
al Jalil ~ the Sublime
al Karim ~ the Generous
ar Raqib ~ the Watcher
al Mujib ~ the Responder to Prayer
al Wasi’ ~ the Comprehending
al Hakim ~ the Wise
al Wadud ~ Love
al Maajid ~ the Glorious
al Ba’ith ~ the Resurrector
ash Shahid ~ the Witness
al Haqq ~ the Truth
al Wakil ~ the Trustee
al Qawi ~ the Inexhaustible
al Matin ~ the Forceful
al Walii ~ the Friend of Servants
al Hamid ~ the Praised
al Muhsi ~ the Quantitator
al Mubdi ~ the Originator
al Mu’id ~ the Restorer
al Muhyi ~ the Giver of Life
al Mumit ~ the Taker of Life
al Hayy ~ the Ever Living
al Qayyum ~ the Self-Existing
al Wajid ~ the Finder
al Majiid ~ the Majestic
al Wahid ~ the One
al Ahad ~ the Only
as Samad ~ the Satisfier of Needs
al Qadir ~ the All Powerful
al Muqtadir ~ the Creator of All Power
al Muqaddim ~ the Advancer
al Muakhkhir ~ the Delayer
al Awwal ~ the First
al Akhir ~ the Last
az Zahir ~ the Manifest
al Batin ~ the Hidden
al Wali ~ the Governor of Creation
al Muta’ali ~ the Supreme
al Barr ~ the Doer of Good
at Tawwib ~ the Turner to Repentance
al Muntaqim ~ the Avenger
al ‘Afu ~ the Forgiver, the Redeemer
ar Rauf ~ the Clement
Malik al Mulk ~ Eternal Owner of All
Dhul Jalali wal Ikram ~ Lord of Majesty and Bounty
al Muqsit ~ the Distributor
al Jami’ ~ the Gatherer
al Ghani ~ the Rich
al Mughni ~ the Enricher
al Mani’ ~ the Averter of Harm
ad Darr ~ the Causer of Harm
an Nafi’ ~ the Creator of Good
an Nur ~ Light
al Hadi ~ the Guide
al Badi’ ~ the Originator
al Baqi ~ the Everlasting
al Warith ~ the Inheritor
ar Rashid ~ the Righteous Teacher
as Sabur ~ the Completely Patient One

la ilaha illa llah

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Names of God in Judaism

In Judaism, the name of God represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature.

Generally speaking, the various names of God in Judaism represent God as known by men, that is to say some of the divine aspects, or attributes of God that may be apprehended.

(parts of this first section contain edited excerpts from wiki)

In awe at the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for them, the scribes of sacred texts took pause before copying them, and used terms of reverence so as to keep the true name of God concealed. Various questions are raised as to why a priestly class such as the rabbinate would want to keep the names of God concealed...

The numerous names of God have been a source of debate among biblical scholars and, later, Qur'anic scholars, though generally the muslim approach is one of inclusion and openness, rather than exclusion. In the Qur'an are referenced 99 names of the Almighty. Other esoteric muslim traditions speak of a thousand names.

Infinity itself must, by definition, contain infinite names and attributes.

Others have advanced the theory that the variety of names for the Divine provides proof that the Torah has many authors. As noted, on a deeper level of understanding, different aspects of God have different names, depending on the context in which God is being referred to and the specific aspects which are being emphasized.

The most important and most often written name of God in Judaism is the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God transliterated without vowels as YHWH or YHVH.

This name is first mentioned in the book of Genesis and is usually translated as 'the LORD'. Because Judaism forbids pronouncing the name outside the Temple, the correct pronunciation of this name has been lost, as the original Hebrew texts included only consonants.

Some scholars conjecture the name was pronounced "Yahweh". Others suggest that it never had a pronunciation, which is considerd extremely unlikely given that it is found as an element in numerous Hebrew names.

The Hebrew letters are named Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh: note that Hebrew, as Arabic, is written from right to left, rather than left to right as in English. In English, depending upon the transliteration convention used, the name is written as either YHWH, YHVH, or JHVH ~ hence the Latinized name "Jehovah".

The Tetragrammaton was written in contrasting Paleo-Hebrew characters in some of the oldest surviving square Aramaic Hebrew texts, and it is speculated that it was, even at that period, read as Adonai, "My Lord", when encountered.

In appearance, YHWH is the third person singular imperfect of the verb "to be", meaning, therefore, "He is".

Similarly in Arabic, the most concise name for God used in prayer and remembrance is hu ~ literally, "he".

These verbal bases for the name are consistent with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person ~ "I am."

It stems from the conception of monotheism that God exists by himself, of himself, without cause, the cause of causes, the uncreated Creator who doesn't depend on anything or anyone else.

Thus the answer to Moses: “I am that I am.”

Abraham knew God as El Shaddai, literally translated as El of the Mountain, but more commonly abstracted in modern times as God Almighty.

When Abraham, or Ibrahim, appears in the Qur'an, God is called by the Arabic allah, literally the god.

The word El appears in other northwest Semitic languages such as Phoenician and Aramaic. In Akkadian, ilu is the ordinary word for god. It is also found in Old South Arabian and in Ethiopic. As in Hebrew, it is often used as an element in proper names. In northwestern Semitic texts it often appears to be used to speak of one single god, perhaps the head of the pantheon, sometimes specifically said to be the creator.

El is used in both the singular and plural, both for other gods and for the God of Israel.

As a name of God, however, it is used chiefly in poetry and prophetic discourse, rarely in prose, and then usually with some epithet attached, as "a jealous God."

Other examples of its use with some attribute or epithet are:
El `Elyon ~ "Most High God", El Shaddai ~ "God Almighty",
lit. "El of the Mountain", El Hai ~ "Living God",
El Ro'i ~ "God of Seeing", El Gibbor ~ "God of Strength".

Compare El Hai ~ Living God, in Hebrew
with al Hayy ~ the Everliving, in Arabic
one of the ninety-nine beautiful names of God from the Qur'an.

Semitic names such as Gabriel ~ Strength of God, Michael ~
Who is Like God, [Jibri'il and Mika'il in Arabic],
Raphael ~ Medicine of God, and Daniel ~ God is My Judge
incorporate this name of God in a similar fashion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What's in a Name?

The many names of God give voice to the paths of faith and understanding taken by various peoples on this beautiful planet earth, as spoken in their diverse tongues.

In the originally oral tradition of the Vedas on the Indian subcontinent, there are Indra, Soma, and Agni, among other names representing different aspects of God.

The latter part of the Rg Veda also yields one of the earliest human expressions of this multiplicity being subsumed into Unity. We'll hear more of that in a subsequent post.

Later, Vedantists abstracted the muliplicity into Atman in the writings of the Upanishads, then re-personified three aspects in the names Brahma, Visnu, and Siva, often given attributes of Creator, Preserver, Destroyer.

Siva means “auspicious”, and the name or persona derives from Rudra, the original Sanskrit name for thunder. Thus, duality is unified even within the name of Siva, the auspicious, the destroyer, which heralds both lightning and rain. The dual aspects are manifest in the destructive force of lightning and torrential monsoon rains, and in the auspiciousness of the life which springs forth in their aftermath.

Of course another form of duality within unity is represented by the male/female pairing of Siva and Sakti [pronounced Shiva and Shakti].

Notably along these lines, in the Nag Hammadi library from the ancient Middle East, there exists an extraordinarily powerful and beautiful declaratory prayer known as "Thunder ~ Perfect Mind."

This recitation is a beautiful statement of the resolution of opposites within the Unity of the Divine, the One. All of it is spoken in the voice of a female persona.

More on that in another post to come, as well.

In Tibetan vajrayana, or tantric buddhism, the dorje (vajra in Sanskrit) represents awakened mind. Dorje is most often translated as "diamond thunderbolt".

Yes, it all does come together....

In the samkhya yoga tradition of India the personification of the Manifest and the Void, of male and female aspects of the divine oneness, is represented by the names Purusa and Prakriti, much the same as in the Chinese yang and yin.

The Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota indians of the Great Plains have Wakan Tanka, usually translated as the Great Spirit, as their name for the One, the Creator.

This little essay, and those to follow, are just the tiniest windows on the Unity of the Reality from which all the many beautiful names of God derive and flow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stirring the pot

Fitra is the original state of spiritual health in which humans are created by God. The commonly accepted meaning of this word derives from the traditions of Muhammad. It describes the original pure state in which God creates each of us. Something quite different from the concept of original sin, which does not exist for muslims.

As such, every child is born not only pure, but muslim, which simply means "surrendered to God." A child's parents, depending upon their culture, might then raise her or him to believe differently or behave in some other manner. But we are originally created in a pure state by God. And in service to our creator.

So our original nature is one of spiritual health, of moral beauty, and of surrender to God.

This concept of fitra ~ the original healthy constitution of each human being's nature as created by God ~ is invoked by sufis, who view their own quest as a means for restoring or rediscovering the original beauty of our own nature, in harmony with that of creation, as servants of the Creator.

Soup's on

Sometimes you just gotta dance.