The Science of Qur'an

The Generous Qur'an, the Book of Islam, was revealed to the Messenger Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, over a period of twenty-three years from the time of the first revelation which came when the Messenger was forty years old.

In the month of Ramadan it is read through in its entirety and on the Night of Power it is read 'shabina' – in one night. It is indicated within its text by many names, among them being: The Book, The Discrimination, The Judgment, The Mercy, The Spirit, The Explanation, The Light, The Truth, The Argument, The Warning, The Wisdom, The Clarification.

In these ayats, Reality addresses the Messenger saying:

With truth have We sent it down, and with truth has it descended. And We have sent you as nothing else than a bringer of good news and a warning.

And a Qur'an that we have divided, that you may recite it to all mankind at intervals, and we have revealed it, revelation by revelation. (Qur'an 17.105-6)

Before examining what its themes are we first must come to terms with this designation of the Book as a 'revelation', for if we are honest this has no specific meaning as a psychological term and is outside our experience unless one admits into it the category of the premonitory dream. Part of modern people's difficulty in approaching Islam realistically lies in their prejudice about the nature of a 'prophet'. The word in Arabic derives from a root NB'A, meaning 'to be exalted': 'to announce': 'to make one acquainted with': so the picture is quite clear. The Nabeyi is the Announcer who brings the news, who makes one acquainted with how-it-is, the reality-process.

The word for revelation is specific.

Its root is: NZL, meaning: 'to descend': 'that which is prepared for a guest': 'an entertainment': 'a gift': 'an abode'. It is also the noun of 'unity' and thus literally means 'one descent'. The preparation of something for the guest is perhaps its most weighty meaning in the root's effloration from the basic cluster.

The Qur'an is, if you like, the gift of the host to his guests, the creatures, whose brief stay is in the abode of Earth. And again, it is itself an abode of Wisdom. It is an 'entertainment' that lifts the heart and diverts it from this world with the beauties and rewards of the Unseen. Its means of manifesting was that it 'came down'. Now, in the Wisdom-picture there are only the four directions and there is no fifth. That is, there is only right/left: in front/behind. This 'above' from which Qur'an 'came down' can only be the 'within' whose opposite is not 'without'.

What does this mean?

We have already seen how the SAMAWATI which we name the 'heavens' indicates essentially not another dimension to existence, but rather that non-spatial zone which is no-place. The heavens are a reality of the Unseen, not cosmically, but since reality consists only of the four elements, this no-place is also the 'up' of the phenomenal heaven. When the bedouin woman was brought to the Messenger as a kafir he asked her, 'Where is Allah?' Now the answer that he inhabits place is, correctly, unthinkable to a Muslim, yet when she unhesitatingly pointed skywards, the Messenger commanded that she be freed at once. Samawati, we recall, is what gives us the names. It is the basic dyad: samawati/'ard. These are One Reality, and so the Qur'an in coming down properly speaking, came out. What happened?

How did it 'get in' in the first place?

Firstly let us examine the straight narrative:

Wahb bin Kaisan told me that 'Ubayd said to him: 'Every year during the month of Ramadan, the Messenger would pray in seclusion and give food to the poor that came to him. And when he completed the month and returned from his retreat, first of all he would, before entering his house, go to the Ka'ba and walk round it seven times or as often as it pleased Allah: then he would go back to his house until, in the year when Allah sent him, in the month of Ramadan in which Allah willed concerning him what He willed, the Messenger set out for Hira, the Mountain of Light, and there Allah honoured him with his task.

'"He came to me," said the Messenger, "while I was asleep, with a coverlet of brocade whereon was some writing, and said, 'Read!' I said, 'What shall I read?' He pressed me with it so tightly that I thought it was death: then He let me go and said, 'Read!' I said, 'What shall I read?' He pressed me with it the third time so that I thought it was death and said, 'Read!' I said, 'What shall I read?' – and this only to deliver myself from Him, lest He should do the same to me again.

'"He said:

'Read: In the Name of the Lord, who createth,

Createth man from a clot.

Read: and thy Lord is the Most Generous.

Who teacheth by the Pen,

Teacheth man that which he knew not.' (96.1-5)

'"So I read it and He departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep and it was as though these words were engraved on my heart. Now none of Allah's creatures was more hateful to me than an ecstatic poet or a man possessed: I could not even look at them. I thought, 'Woe is me, poet or possessed – never shall the Quraysh say this of me! I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest.'

'"When I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Oh Muhammad! Thou art the Messenger of Allah, and I am Jibril!'

'"I raised my head towards heaven to see, and there was Jibril in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon saying, 'Oh Muhammad, you are the Messenger of Allah and I am Jibril.' I stood gazing at him moving neither forward nor backward: then I began to turn my face away from him, but toward whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before. And I continued standing there until Khadija sent her servants in search of me and they gained the high ground above Makka and returned to her while I was standing in the same place."'

The narrative continues with the Messenger confiding his fear of insanity to his wife. She argues that he cannot be since his qualities are those of sanity itself, trustworthiness, kindness, balance. Khadija's whole way of dealing with this disturbing event not only speaks vividly of her fine intellect and love for the Messenger, but shows that she and her family were people already acquainted with the Wisdom-tradition of their people. Crucial to any understanding of the manifestation of what we now call Islam is a grasp of the fact that there continued from the time of Ibrahim, peace be upon him, a living spiritual thread of unitary doctrine – this science, the Hanifa as it was called, had a continuing thread of followers who passed on and practised the Ibrahimic (brahminical) Tawhid (yoga). Hanifa derives from HNF, 'to incline'. It means therefore not only 'to incline toward the Truth', but 'to be responsive', to open oneself and yield to the Truth. The essential mark of the Hanif and later, for it was no different, the Muslim, was that he was supple and yielding and not rigid and unbending. They were known as the people of the Huda, the people of Right Guidance. This word Huda derives from HDA, meaning 'to lead in the right way', 'to follow a right course', 'a victim of sacrifice', 'an offering', 'to be a direction', 'one who directs'.

Thus they were the Wisdom-tradition, for it is the role of the initiates of Wisdom that they must not only practise it, but establish it. The very first declaration of who Qur'an is for in the opening main Form 'Al-Baqara' puts it thus:

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Alif. Lam. Mim.

This Book in which there is no doubt,

a guidance to those who ward off:

who believe in the Unseen, and establish salat,

and spend of what We have bestowed on them.

And who trust in what is revealed to you (Muhammad) and what was revealed before you, and are certain of

the Akhira.

These depend on Huda from their Lord.

These are the successful. (Qur'an 2.1-5)

The man of Wisdom offers himself up to Reality, opens himself, as did Isma'il, the son of Ibrahim, peace be upon them both. They risk destruction even of their life-experience in an act that is an abandonment of the self-illusion only to find that Reality has opened itself to them, that Huda comes to them. Here is the secret of the transaction we have begun to examine in the so-called 'prophetic experience', the complete flowing openness of the Chosen One, Muhammad – chosen by inevitable destiny, for he has so utterly abnegated his own self-choice that chosenness floods in to fill the gap of his surrendered self-form. This is how-it-is.

Khadija, aware of the implications of his vision, knew exactly what to do. She hurried across Makka to the house of her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin Abdu'l-'Uzza bin Qusayy, who had become a Christian but had come through the tradition of the Hanifa. When she told him what had happened, he affirmed the authenticity of the event and went to the Messenger and made him retell the story. He also confirmed physically what he had ascertained by his secret knowledge, for he asked the Messenger to bare his back. There he found what he has looking for – the Seal of Messengership on his back, the outward genetic proof in the cells of his being inwardly the one to 'receive' the Message of Reality.

Waraqa confirmed: 'There has come to you the greatest Namus who came to Sayyedina Musa (Moses). You will be called a liar, they will humiliate you, and they will cast you out and they will fight with you. Surely, you are the Messenger of this people.' And he kissed him on his forehead and left.

Khadija was determined to complete her proofs of authenticity to convince her husband that he was neither poet nor possessed. When the angelic manifestation happened in their own house, she prepared a test. She instructed her husband to move towards her, continually asking if the Vision remained. She moved him to sit on her lap, and then when she exposed herself the Vision vanished. If the vision had remained during any sexual act it would have followed that it was from the jinn who use the heat/energies of fire, and not angelic which use air/energy. This is why ghusl separates the sexual act and salat. The water rite follows the fire/act to purify the self for the other act of union which is dependent on the air element, breath.

The people of the Quraysh were determined in their rejection of the new Messenger, and the three main charges they brought against him were three which the text of the Book itself analysed and demonstrated to be false. These three possibilities were:

1) that he was a poet.

2) that he was a magician.

3) that he was mad, or possessed by jinn.

While the charge that he was possessed swept through Makka, a man of Azd Shanu'a who had a great reputation at casting out jinn came to the Messenger. His name was Dimad. Dimad, when he heard of the Messenger, thought that it would be a blessing for him if he could heal this man. He went to the Chosen One and said: 'I practise the science of casting out jinn, Muhammad, would you like me to do so?' The Messenger replied: 'Praise belongs to Allah whom we praise and from whom we seek help. No-one can lead astray one whom Allah guides, and no-one can guide one whom Allah leads astray. I affirm that there is no Divinity except Allah, alone, without association, and I affirm that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Go ahead!' Dimad was unable to continue and said: 'Repeat what you have just said.' After the Messenger had said the words three times, Dimad said: 'I have heard what the kahins say, what the sorcerers say and what the poets say, but I have never heard anything like these words of yours which have reached a depth in me like that of the sea. If you give me your hand I will swear allegiance to you by accepting Islam.' This is in a tradition from Ibn 'Abbas and is transmitted by Muslim.

The Hadith give a clear picture of whatever the outward aspects of the times of revelation were:

A'isha told that Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's Messenger, 'How does the experience come to you, Messenger of Allah?' to which he replied: 'It comes to me at times like the clanging of a bell, and that is the type which is most severe for me. It then leaves me, I having retained of it what the angel said. At times the angel appears to me in human form and speaks to me and I retain what he says.' A'isha said she had seen the event happen on a very cold day and his forehead poured sweat when it left him. This is transmitted in both Bukhari and Muslim.

Ubada bin as-Samit said that when the revelation descended on the Prophet he was distressed on account of it and his face altered to a dark hue. A version says that he lowered his head and his Companions lowered their heads, then when it was removed from him he raised his head. Muslim transmitted it.

With two of the most tremendous revelations in the Qur'an, the 'Ya Sin' Form and the 'Hud' Form, the impact was so shattering on the Messenger that some of his hair turned white when the descent took place. It is quite clear from these accounts that one could take these descriptions as evidence that he was indeed 'a man possessed'. This raises something that we have already touched on, which is that it is in the nature of the spiritual Path that its stages are marked by stages similar to the identity-fragmentation that we call madness. Let us re-iterate it, for there has to be a re-focussing of our self-form understanding if we are to grasp the truth of these matters.

The goal of the Path is the annihilation of the experiencing self, the centre or locus from which the endless flowing states manifest in such a manner as to suggest the self's reality and historicity. The goal is to loosen these form-shadows and allow the Light which is the source-form of the locus in the Unseen to manifest. Thus the result is properly speaking 'the destruction of the personality'. Madness is a fragmentation of experience rendering the solid world unreal and the inner existence over-real, or vice-versa, so that inner experience is either terrible and intolerable or glorious and elated, on the one hand, or barren and desolate on the other. Insanity is based on a basic split between the 'centre' and the outer world of behaviour, event, people and objects. Either the mad person will 'get out' and leave the body – you may prick it and it will give no sign of being 'inhabited' – they will station themselves in a safe place, the moon, high up; or else, they will 'go in' – shut all the doors of the senses, become still, no signals going out or being taken in. Both madnesses imply, by this condition, a break in behaviour with the accepted behaviour of the community. An essential part of this break is the refusal to adhere to the commonly shared 'naming' process, and either an arcane language will be introduced or unstructured changes will be made with random shifting of nouns so that 'this' is called 'that'. The Wisdom-path is to dismantle the self systematically not as a ruse to protect and isolate the non-existent 'core', but to open oneself to the Secret of Totality. The peeling of the onion-layers, in the image of Peer Gynt, is an act of glorious release and opening to the Reality, for not only is there no core but there was no onion. Nothing has been gained, but nothing has been lost. At the different stages of the Way, the shedding of the 'skins' may have the appearance of the madman in his getting out or coming in. The difference is only one. The madman is himself 'shedding the skins' – he is conducting an operation of self-destruction based on the false and doomed premise that there is a 'he' to dismantle his 'he-ness'. Thus he splits reality, he breaks his own heart, for 'there are not two hearts within the breast' as Qur'an says. (33.4). The Prophet takes his Path under direct guidance from the Unseen Master, the Angel, while those who follow in his footsteps take theirs from a Shaykh, a visible Master. He undoes them.

This is the meaning of the sufic saying which is quoted by the Shaykh al-Kamil in his Diwan:

He who does not take the Shaykh as his Master

will have Shaytan as his Master.

According to the sufic picture of the nature of the nafs, the Messengers and prophets do not struggle in the same way that the awliya, the Perfected Ones, do. They are the 'perfect exemplars', they are the original man-form in all its perfection. This is why they do not die of disease from within but have to be killed from without – the form being perfect, it would not of its nature end, but the destiny being mortal, the form has to be brought to an end in accordance with nature, outside and inside from another perspective of course being identical. Nevertheless, this perfection contains within it all the stages of the Way and all the Stations of the awliya. The goal of the journey of the awliya lies over the mountains of madness and they have to be traversed. The beginning of the Messenger's time of revelation was that period for him, only he tasted every state with the inner perfection of his 'vast self-form' which encompassed it and grounded it in the deep sanity of his prophetic condition.

While the mad person behaves in a self-obsessed way, the Messenger was the embodiment of the generous, socially balanced and active human being. This was the baffling and unarguable condition of the man they wanted to brand as a lunatic. He said of himself: 'If justice is not to be found with me, then where will you find it?' He said: 'I am the first of the sons of Adam, and I say this without boasting.' He was simply there to show himself to his age as the exemplar, and offer his life-pattern as the Sunna for existence throughout the whole world from that day to the end of time for people of every culture and climate. He was the culmination of the human situation, the Seal of the Perfection of Prophethood. When studying the aspect of revelation, one must not lose sight of the human fineness and delicacy and courage of the desert Messenger. He would not, for example, ever touch a woman who was not his wife or of his household. When he took the act of homage and acceptance of Islam at 'Aqaba from the women, he had a jug of water placed between himself and the women and he plunged his hand into it, and then they did, thus the transmission took place through contact yet through a purifying element. It distressed the Messenger when Sidi Abu Bakr brought his white-haired and venerable father to him. Immediately the Messenger expressed his concern that he had not been able to go to the old man. The Siddiq insisted that it would not have been fitting, so then the Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, knelt beside the old man, stroked his chest, smiled and asked him to make the Affirmation. It is this man, of endless fineness to appreciate the living moment, who is the man laying claim to prophethood, and over whom pass these shuddering and powerful states out of which the Qur'anic message comes. There was never any doubt what was part of the Message and what was simply a revelation, even though the revelation came directly through the Angel, it had to come through this 'filter' which annihilated him during its transmission before it became part of the great Book.

Here is another contemporary record of how the Arabs tried to come to grips with this unique event that took place among them and which was to overturn their whole society and affect the destiny of every one of them:

When the Fair was due, a number of the Quraysh came to Walid bin al-Mughira, who was a man of some standing, and he addressed them in these words: 'The time of the Fair has come round again and representatives of the Arabs will come to you and they will have heard about this man of yours, so let us agree on one opinion without dispute so that none will give the lie to the other.' They replied, 'You give us your opinion about him.' He said, 'No, you speak and I will listen.' They said, 'He is a kahin.' Walid said, 'By God, he is not a soothsayer. He does not mutter or speak in rhymed prose.' – 'Then he is possessed,' they said. 'No, he is not that,' he said, 'we have seen the possessed and here is no choking, spasmodic movements and whispering.' – 'Then he is a poet,' they said. 'No, he is no poet, for we know poetry in all its forms and meters.' – 'Then he is a sorcerer.' – 'No, we have seen sorcerers and their sorcery, and here is no spitting and no knots.' – 'Then what are we to say, Oh Abu 'Abdu Shams?' they asked. He replied: 'By God, his speech is sweet, his root is a palm-tree whose branches are fruitful and everything you have said would be seen to be false. The nearest thing to the truth is your saying that he is a sorcerer, who has brought a message by which he separates a man from his father, or from his brother, or from his wife, or from his family.'

The first revelation which we have documented in detail was sent down on what the Qur'an calls the Night of Power. It is of such importance that there is a Power Form in the Qur'an describing it. It is the general view that on that night the whole of the Qur'an was sent down, to emerge fragment by fragment in living situations throughout the life of the Messenger, but Allah knows best. Here is the Power Form:

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Behold, we revealed it on the Night of Power.

Ah! What will convey to you what the Night of Power is?

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.

The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees.

Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn. (Qur'an 97)

It is this Night of Power that forms the climax of the Ramadan fast and in which the Qur'an is recited from beginning to end, and when the Mumin watches the whole night until dawn.

From that night onwards the revelation came, sometimes an ayat at a time, sometimes a long passage or whole Sura depending on the situation, for the rest of the Messenger's lifetime, the final revelation coming on 'Arafat during his last Hajj when he taught them the final and purified form of the ancient rites of Hajj. Each time a revelation came it emerged out of a particular life-situation and it came as an illumination of that moment opening up the truth of that situation and guiding the Messenger's actions as well as continually unfolding the 'good news and the warning' which are one of the re-iterated themes of the Book. Piece by piece alongside the specific guidance it gave to life-situations came an unfolding pattern of man's history from the beginning of his time on earth and showing the meaning of the various meta-cycles he had lived through. Five themes are orchestrated throughout the Book and they can be summarised thus:

1. Particular guidance to the Messenger telling him what to do in specific situations, teaching him, consoling him, correcting him.

2. The story of mankind's global destiny since the beginning, and the role of the earlier prophets and their Books in this cyclic story of man's being given guidance, and its being corrupted and lost, and a new guidance being sent down, culminating in the final cycle of the Messenger's rule.

3. The new Shari'a or Road that Allah lays down for the whole of mankind, abrogating earlier Roads that were sent for particular nations and races by earlier prophets.

4. The nature of Reality. Tawhid, the declaration of the Unity – that is the essential message of all the prophets – reaffirmed.

5. The good news and the warning', (41.4), the direct existential confrontation with each human being who reads it: 'Where then are you going?' (81.26). The Book warns that this life is a zone of action and that man is responsible to his Creator and will have to answer, in the next phase of existence when he has dropped the phenomenal body, for what he did on earth. There is complete continuity of experience between the life-state, the so-called death-state, and the next-life-state. This is the event world, and that is the meaning-world.

Within these basic themes the Qur'an expresses itself in two particular manners which it defines with great precision, saying:

He it is who sent down to you (Muhammad)

the Book in which are clear-signs – they are

the Mother of the Book –

and others are likeness-signs.

But those in whose hearts is doubt follow what is

the likeness

desiring dissension by desiring its interpretation.

None knows its interpretation except Allah.

And those firmly rooted in knowledge say:

'We trust in it: it is all from our Lord.'

Yet none remembers but men possessed of minds.

(Qur'an 3.7)

The scholars who have tried to create a rabbinical tradition of commentary of Qur'an in Islam have, understandably limited the meaning of this ayat to infer simply that the Book rests on the factual 'law' ayats. Ironically it is the 'law' in all its tremendous simplicity that they have made subtle, ambiguous and top-heavy until a completely rabbinical invention called Qur'anic Law has emerged to buoy up the pseudo-Islamic State they have erected in their own image and in defiance of the community-form outlined in the Sunna of the Messenger. The 'clear-signs' refer to all the great declarations about Divine Unity that stem from the Book's repeated commands to examine creation itself for all the clear-signs within it, and to examine the nafs and observe there these same confirmatory signs of Unity. It is precisely this declaration of Tawhid that is the 'Mother' of the Book. The Book 'comes out of' this, the organic life-laws come out of this, and not the other way round. The clear-signs are those that call to justice and compassion and generosity and peace-making, to feeding the hungry and protecting the orphan. The likeness-signs are not simply, as the 'rabbis' would make out, those ayats which relate to secret things like the journey of Dhu'l Qarnayn or the Sleepers in the Cave, but rather they are those which relate basically to the central teaching in the Book. The behaviour-teaching on which all the Wisdom-practice is based lies in the clear-sign passages which insist on a recognition of Unity in the self and creation and which call to correct and compassionate behaviour – i.e. both a following of the Shari'a – the Road – and a clinging to acts of compassion in the Way of Allah. The Divine-teaching is based on the likeness-signs. Now it is significant that in this ayat Allah-ta-ala uses the physical term for likeness in preference to the imagistic term.

'Mutashabihat' derives from the root ShBH – 'a likeness', 'mutually resembling one another'. It is the word used in Qur'an to indicate the 'likeness' placed on the Cross when Sayyedina 'Isa was taken away from his followers. In the Cow Form of the Qur'an, it is the word used to indicate the similarity of one cow to another. So there is no doubt here! The Divine-teaching is based on these likeness-signs. Real learning about reality lies within these likeness-signs. In fact, properly speaking, this is the only way in which the Reality-situation can be conveyed to human beings, and it has been the Way of all the Prophets and all the Books. The word that is elsewhere used to refer to this teaching-method in the Qur'an is MITHAL. MThL is the root, meaning: 'to be like', 'a comparison', 'a punishment to be taken as an example', 'appear before the eye', 'represent', 'to mean something', 'a pattern or image'. There is no other way that the nature of existence can be conveyed to the human mind except by mithal – this is a mithal of that. It is an image, a form, of the other. It is not 'the same' and it is not a definition. You cannot pin down any aspect of this dynamic and self-renewing-process except fleetingly, on the wing – one can see the connections – if you hold the connection and try to reify it, then the matter will elude you. This mithal opens its nature to you by the quality of your reflection. You cannot capture it nor physicalise it nor use it objectively. You must surrender to the mithal – and let the illumination come as He wills. It is one of His means of access to you and of your means of access to Him. Thus this ayat warns against discoursing and interpreting where reflecting and remaining open in humility and watchfulness are required. The people of Wisdom 'remember' – and the knowledge that comes is the fruit of dhikr. In the language of the Sufis: the clear-sign Wisdom demands fikr (thinking); the likeness-sign Wisdom demands dhikr (shock-awakening).

In Qur'anic language, this gives us both the Furqan (the discrimination) and the Qur'an (the gathering-together).

The Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said in a famous Hadith: 'I have been given all the words.' With this Wisdom-saying he places himself alongside the Original Man, Sayyedina Adam, peace be upon him, who, according to Qur'an, was given all the names. This naming capacity was the distinguishing mark of the human creature. Qur'an itself, as we have already pointed out, consists of large form-units, short sign-units, words, letters and silences. The silences are an essential part of the reading, otherwise there would be ambiguity. One of the secrets of the Qur'an is the set of letters that are used throughout the Book marking the opening of certain Suras. They are not some kind of early scribe's cataloguing as some rather desperate Christian commentators have tried to suggest in their attempts to invalidate the authority of the Book. There are many Hadith that refer to these letters, and two Suras actually bear the letters as their names, 'Ya-Sin' and 'Ta-Ha'. It is inevitable that we should now come to this point where we have to examine the nature of language itself when we find that the whole source of the Wisdom-way is and always has been through revealed Books.

The nature of a revealed Book is not merely that it should come through the revelation process we have just examined, but also that the language should be prepared for the revelation and pure enough to express the revelation – thus a Book comes where and when the language can 'bear' it. What we have observed is that the meanings spill out beyond the word and into single letters. Thus it is clear that before we can understand with profundity the nature of the human situation and the value of the Book, we must understand not only the words but the letters themselves. If we do not know what letters are, and therefore what language is, we are not going to grasp something central to the whole understanding of what a human being is, and the Wisdom-way will be closed to us.

What we are about to examine, and it is a profound matter, must be understood to be one of the many fruits of the Qur'anic revelation. We are not dealing with something foisted onto Islam by wayward scholars borrowing either from India or Greece. As we have already pointed out, however, it was understandable that Muslim scholars would be moved and fascinated to see the earlier 'archeologies' of their own knowledge in the ruined Wisdom-teaching of earlier Islams, whether Pythagorean or Brahminic. Al-Biruni, when he went to India, had no need to borrow from the decayed Shiva-ite cults he saw, but he was intrigued to perceive elements of the sufic Wisdom he already knew so profoundly. The knowledge we are now going to examine in barest outline is one that has been and is common coin among the people of the Path since the time of the Messenger, peace be upon him.

It is in the nature of this learning, and we must re-iterate this here, that it will continually spiral back to its departure point. So while we are now embarking on a journey into the realm of letters it will inevitably encroach on our next subject of study, the nature of 'stuff' itself. We are now beginning to grasp a different picture of existence from the dualistic frame we had worked with in our ignorant 'educational' orientation. Now we are moving into a world where we recognise that everything is dynamic and in motion, patternings are transecting other patternings and giving the illusion of solidities and permanences, these illusions take on a 'reality' which the cosmic picture constantly denies. In place of the body/mind duality, we are confronted with an organic and multi-element reality of experiential flux. We are in a world where everything is moving, melting, altering, vanishing. Yet what moves and changes is structured and restructured according to the most delicate and vibrant order. We are beginning to recognise the Act of the One in manifesting His Universe of endless forms.

As always, we begin with the affirmation of a Unity which is both indivisible and independent of forms. Not a 'ground' underlying, or a power standing over and beyond, but a Reality without whereness which is total. As the Shaykh al-Akbar puts it:

Know, may Allah support us and you, that when existence was absolute without limitation, it contained the Obligator, and He is the Reality, may He be exalted, and the obligated, and they are the world and the letters altogether.

We now must open ourselves to the picture of reality that is experienced by 'the people of unveiling'. Here we are no longer trapped in the limiting zone of sensory experience checked by the inadequate tools of logic, but in a world that, as we will eventually recognise, is like the world described – but not known – by the astro-physicist on the one hand, and the nuclear physicist on the other, only the instrument that replaces the 'measuring' telescope and the destructive reactor, is the experiencing inner-sight of the heart.

According to the Shaykh al-Akbar, there are 261 Heavens which revolve around the letters and which are contained in His Heaven – the Malakut. The station of the letters is derived from Elements from which the letters are composed. All the letters he calls 'dotted', as all letters come from the 'dot'. The 'dot' we may take to be the manifestation of phenomena. And phenomenal being is itself manifested from letters.

Now, there are 29 letters in the Arabic alphabet, that is, in the language created specifically for the Wisdom-revelation or 'abode'. Two letters have a particular significance which we will look at later. These two are also very related. These are Hamza and 'Alif. 'Alif in certain computations is seen not as a letter at all, but as the gate of letters, the source of letters, the original letter. Hamza as we know from the language itself usually is dependent on the 'alif for its appearance. This gives us 28 letters when we omit one of these, and 27 if we omit both. The 27 gives us 9 x 3, the significance of which we will shortly examine. The 29 gives us the lunar month. The 29 x 9 gives us the 261 of the Heavens. Firstly we must establish the value of 9 in the sufic computation of reality.

It is essential to bear in mind that we are now seeing reality as unitary, with heavens intersecting heavens, the Unseen intersecting the Seen, and with any distinction which is made the reality is not split but merely looked at from one point of view. When another 'rank' or 'reality' is invoked, the previous one vanishes, for these separatenesses are in description only and not in truth. For example, if referring to the Divine Attributes, you talk of Him as being the One who Creates and then the One who Destroys, you are not saying He is now one and then the other. We may examine Him as the Creator of matter but at the same time He is destroying it – not 'later'. His Mercy and His Wrath are not separate, they are not different, yet they are not the same. We may only approach from one side at a time, at least in the zone of thinking. In the experience of 'tasting' however we must join them. In the realm of the slave, if we say one is a Muslim and one is a kafir we make a valid distinction, but if we talk of the Judgment and the Weighing we can conceive of mercy for the kafir and punishment for the Muslim, for we are approaching their situation in relation to another Divine Name or aspect. From one point of view we are the actors and responsible, from another point of view He is the Actor and He does what He wills. There is no negation but if you adhere to one you lose the other.

We will now go to the second step from the basic affirmation of Unity. We will sketch here the most simple necessary framework of our cosmology, utterly derived from the Qur'an and the Hadith.

Creation is composed of three ranks. The creation of forms is in descent from 1 through to 2 through to 3, that 'descent' being, of course, in description but not in reality.

1. JABRUT: The Divine Names

(Almightiness)

2. MALAKUT: The World of Source-forms

(Dominion)

3. MULK: The world of Apparent forms

(Kingdom)

Each of these three ranks consists of three ranks. Each has an apparent reality and a hidden reality. It, itself, is an Interspace. This term – Barzakh – is a key term which we will have constant recourse to, and it is essential to our view that every phenomenal zone of existence, whether seen or unseen, is in itself merely an interspace between two other zones. This means that the Seen World is an Interspace in itself, but so also is the World of Source-Forms in the Unseen and the Jabrut where Lordship comes out to Creation from the Essence.

In our first picture we see the three ranks in their 'descent' into forms. Taking into account that these ranks intersect each other, let us place the ruling rank of the Jabrut in the centre for it shares a face on one side with the Mulk and on the other with the Malakut. Here we take three aspects: Apparent: Interspace: Hidden. Thus the Hidden of the Mulk is the Apparent of the Jabrut, and the Hidden of the Jabrut is the Apparent of the Malakut. This count gives us 7 conditions within the 3 ranks. Therefore the 9 ranks are in fact 7 conditions. So we can approach by the 7 or the 9, it is the same.

This 9 Reality is common to the Lord and the slave, for it is the Creation, the zone of forms, seen and unseen. Thus from the 9 this gives us 18.

Since the human presence, like the Divine Presence, or rather its source, is composed of these three ranks, we multiply this 7:

Therefore: 7 x 3 = 21

If from the Divine aspect we subtract   3

                                      ______

                         This gives us: 18.

The same from the human aspect. This gives us 18 Stations of the Kingdom.

Change perspective and we recognise the Divine interplay between the Reality and the Creation. There are 9 Heavens for casting out – that is, the fulgurating displaying and giving of form-energy from the Truth, and 9 Heavens for reception in the form-world. The meeting place is the Kingdom. This 'meeting point' of the Kingdom is the point of revelation where, from Casting-out, the Truth sent down Jibril with the Message, and where the Creation, in receiving, took it through the Messenger.

The Truth has created 9 Heavens. There are the seven of the skies, that is the 'sky' of each of the 7 visible planets ( the other two planets of our galaxy are only considered to exert an influence under certain very particular conditions, for this gives us a 9), and to this we add 1 for the Kursi – that is, the Universe of Stars, and another 1 for the 'Arsh – the starless heaven 'beyond' the stars or, as in our new language, 'intersecting' it. The likeness of the Universe to the 'Arsh is that of a small ring flung onto a vast desert. The Heavens, the Kursi, and the 'Arsh make the basic 9.

The next crucial step in our abandonment of the false mind/matter duality is in the recognition of the basic nature of phenomenal existence, which is founded on 4. Phenomenal existence is based on the primal four conditions of hot / cold / wet / dry, and to this is added no fifth. It is untenable that there be more than four bases. The Shaykh al-Akbar states:

So 4 are the bases of number. 3, which is in the 4 added to 4 gives 7. 2 which is in them, plus these 7 is 9, and the 1 which is in the 4 plus these 9 is 10. After this the arrangement is as you wish. You do not find a number which give you other than these 4, just as you do not find a complete number other than 6, because in it are 1/2, 1/6 , and 1/3 . So hot and dry were mixed and it was fire. Hot and wet were mixed and it was air (i.e. heat and moisture). Cold and wet were mixed and it was water. Cold and dry were mixed and it was earth. So look at the formation of the air from heat and moisture, it was the breath which is the sensory life and it is the mover of everything by its breath. It moved water, earth, and fire, and by its movement things move because it is life. These 4 are the pillars engendered by the first matrices.

Then learn that these first matrices accord their realities to compounds solely without mixture. So the heating from heat is not from other than it. It is the same with drying up and shrivelling from dryness. When you see fire has dried up the place from water, do not imagine that heat dried it up, because fire is compounded of heat and dryness as we said. So by the heat which is in it, water is heated, and by the dryness drying up occurred. It is thus with pliability – which is only from moisture: and becoming cold which is only from coldness. Heat makes warm: coldness makes cold: moisture makes pliable: and dryness dries up. Thus the matrices are incompatible, and are only joined in a form, but the extent which their realities accorded, and 1 is never found from them in a form. However 2 are found, either like heat and dryness as we said, in their compound, or heat existed alone. There is only it, from it, in its isolation. Realities are in two sections: realities found isolated in the intellect like life, knowledge, articulation, and sense, and realities which are found by the existence of compounding, like the sky, the world, man and stone. If you say: 'What is the cause which joins these incompatible sources so that from their mixture appears that which appears? – I reply that here is a wondrous secret and a great complexity. Its unveiling would be a wrong action since the intellect cannot reason it. But unveiling sees it

So realities grant that these matrices do not have existence in their essence at all before the existence of complex forms from them.

Well aware that this description of things seems to be in contradiction to the scientific picture, he asserts that it is ignorance to lay at his door a charge of giving an 'unscientific' view of reality. He accepts the scientific picture, but questions its ability to unfold the nature of how things are, since it starts off with a basic division between knowledge and the knower and the known. To the people of the Path, while the knowers are several and 'know' differently – knowledge itself is One and thus all they are experiencing is a private unveiling of a tiny part of One Reality, and this knowledge must come out from the knower and not his thoughts.

He says:

So the Reality, may He be exalted, is the One from whom we take our knowledges, with the retreat of the heart from thought, and with the inclination to accept opening-experience ( i.e. that you are not a separate knower at all). It is He who gives us the matter at its source without summation or confusion. So we know the realities for what they are based on – it is the same whether they were isolated or occurred with the time-structure of the formations, or Divine Realities.

Again he is indicating that you can say it this way or that way, we either see things as within the phenomenal world or we see them as the Divine unfoldings, the description in each instance is not the thing. There is no scientific fact, there are only the limited view-pictures. These are our doing. He is concerned with unveiling, which comes from Reality to the slave. He quotes the ayat of the Qur'an which says of the Messenger: 'We have not taught him poetry, it is not seemly for him.' (36.69).

He comments:

Poetry is the place of summation, symbols, and riddles.

This teaching, he insists, comes through the Qur'anic revelation and through his own Station of being Wali, it is through his direct-experience of Reality, and therefore superior to, and other than, the human knowledges.

To return to our picture of the Cosmos: all the letters have appeared from the 'alif. It is their Heaven in spirit and in sense. There is a Heaven from which Earth exists: a Heaven from which Water exists: a Heaven from which Air exists: and a Heaven from which Fire exists. This gives 5 existent Heavens in this picture. Each of these Heavens revolves around certain letters and sometimes even parts of letters.

In specifying a particular difference in the hot/wet from the other compounds, the Master makes a very illuminating comment. Its Heaven is not, apparently, like that of the other combinations, but is another encircling Heaven. Had it been the same, he observes, that Heaven would have come to an end and its power would have vanished as it appears in incidental life. For the hot/wet is vanishing or moving, and its reality ends even though it does not vanish. For this reason the Creator, may He be exalted, related to us that 'the Last Abode is Life,' (40.39), and 'everything proclaims His praise.' (17.44).

He continues:

So the Heaven of life in pre-endless-time began pre-endless-time life in its extension. It does not have a Heaven so its cycle comes to an end. Life in pre-endless-time in itself belongs to the Living, and so ending is not true for it. So post-endless-time life is caused by pre-endless-time life and it does not accept end. Don't you see, that when the life of the spirits is essentially theirs, that death is not valid for them? When life was in physical bodies by accident, death and annihilation was based on it. So the life of the apparent body comes from the traces of the life of the spirit even as the light of the sun which is on the earth comes from the sun. When the sun passes, its light follows it, and the earth becomes dark. Thus when the spirit goes from the body to its Heaven from which it came, the life diffused from it in the living body follows it, and the body remains in the form of the inanimate to our eye. So it is said: 'So-and-so has died,' but in reality you say that he has returned to his source. 'Out of it We created you, and We shall restore you to it, and bring You forth a second time.' (20.55)

The Spirit likewise returns to its source until the Day of Rising, and the Gathering will be a manifestation of the spirit to the body by means of love. So its parts will be united and its members organised in a subtle life again. The setting in motion of the members to formation is acquired by the turning of the spirit. So when its formation is established and the formation of dust is set up, the spirit manifests itself to it by the gentle Israfilian call in the encircled horn. So a life goes into its limbs and it becomes a shaped individual as on the first time. 'Then he blows into it again, so that they stand looking while the Earth is illuminated by the Light of their Lord.' (39.68-69) 'As He created you, you return.' (7.29) 'Say: "He will quicken them, who originated them the first time."' (36.79) 'Either happy or wretched.' (11.05).

It is clear from this picture that the existence of the letters and the meaning of their activity has to do with the whole creation process. It is another regrettable result of the study of Muslim writers having filtered through the Orientalists that this study of letters which lies at the base of Sufism has been so long ignored, or worse, dismissed as some kind of superstitious magic. The reduction of the science of letters to an arcane esotericism has completely barred the way to any serious study of Islamic Cosmology. The modern Muslims, on their part, brought up and educated in a colonial situation with a Christian bourgeois ethos surrounding them, had little chance of appreciating it either, so busy were they grovelling before the idols of technology with which they are still, many of them, so deeply awed. It is no use examining this picture of a world where the forms 'come out' of the letters unless it is clearly understood that this is a serious and precise description of the life-process and does not mean that the Shaykh with his towering intellect is naively suggesting that the beginning of things is some kind of cosmic children's party with a lot of alphabet letters falling out of the sky. It is we who must make the effort to grasp the meaning and Wisdom of the secrets of existence which he lays before us, bearing in mind his continual warnings which I can but re-iterate:

We travel on a different path in the understanding of these words, and that is that we free our hearts from meditative speculation and we sit with the Truth by dhikr on the carpet of courtesy, watching, with presence and preparation for the acceptance of what He wills to us from Him, may He be exalted, until the Truth, may He be exalted, takes possession of our instruction by unveiling and realisation by what you heard Him say: 'Fear Allah, Allah teaches you.' (2.282). He says: 'If you fear Allah, He will assign you a furqan,' (8.29), and 'Lord, increase me in knowledge,' (20.114), and 'We taught him knowledge from Our Presence.' (18.65).

Fortunately, the intellectual situation is much more open to the Wisdom-teaching than it was in the first arrogant days when scientific methodology seemed adequate to deal with any problem. In his Inaugural Address to the College de France, the biologist Jacques Monod said: 'It is language which created humans, rather than humans language.' When one examines the interconnecting systems of psycho-linguistics and structural linguistics and so on, we find that it is not the vision that is lacking as much as the willingness to shed an epistemology which they inherited from the scientists and which they are terrified to leave behind. The story is the same wherever research has taken men to the limits of logic and language and measurement and where the microcosmic structure planes out into the macrocosmic or vice-versa, or where the forms themselves emerge out of the fecund Nothing they imagine they observe. Many of the findings of the biologists and physicists are taking them to a point where they are being challenged to recognise – not the invalidity of their findings – but the underlying psychosis of their approach. Indeed, much of what they have to say is germane to our study – that they are trapped in a blind-alley is of their own doing, and also their own business. Here are George and Muriel Beadle, for example, coming from the realm of molecular biology:

The deciphering of the DNA code has revealed our possession of a language much older than hieroglyphics, a language as old as life itself, a language that is the most living of all.

Commenting on the findings of Crick and Yanofsky in their analysis of what they call 'the four-letter language embodied in molecules of nucleic acid', Roman Jakobson, the linguist, observes:

We actually learn that all the detailed and specific genetic information is contained in molecular coded messages, namely in their linear sequences of 'code words' or 'codons'. Each word comprises three coding sub-units termed 'nucleotide bases' or 'letters' of the code 'alphabet'. This alphabet consists of four differing letters 'used to spell out the genetic message'. The 'dictionary' of the genetic code encompasses 64 distinct words which, in regard to their components, are defined as 'triplets', for each of them forms a sequence of three letters. 61 of these triplets carry an individual meaning, while three are apparently used merely to signal the end of the genetic message.

Again a biologist addressing the College de France, this time Jacob, who says:

To the old notion of the gene, an integral structure that one used to compare to the bead on a rosary, has succeeded that of a series of four elements repeated in permutations. Heredity is determined by a chemical message inscribed along the chromosomes. The surprising thing is that genetic specificity is written, not in ideograms as in Chinese, but in an alphabet as in French, or rather, in Morse. The meaning of the message comes from the combination of signs into words, and from the arrangement of words into sentences – a posteriori, this solution appears the only logical one. How otherwise could such a scarcity of means secure a similar diversity of architectural forms?

It is a sad condition of the blindness of these 'observers' of the life-process – do not ask how they got 'outside' existence – that they are so trapped by the role they have assigned themselves they are forced to conclude that the discrete components are in themselves devoid of meaning. Here again is that subjective projection of their own existential situation onto the so-called object-of-observation. The Shaykh al-Akbar insists that if anyone makes a model he will in the end only be making a model of himself. To deny meaning to the 'letter' is to deny meaning to the 'sentence' – which is life. Yet what we see, if we have the courage to look clearly, at every stage of the Way, is meaning. The sentence is structured. There is, in the mechanistic language of the scientist, 'architecture'. It is absurd to hear re-iterated at this stage of man's existence the old arguments about watches and watchmakers, but astonishingly they still go on. We are not dealing with a machine-world. We are dealing with a Reality which, first of all, is dealing with us. Secondly, it is not a mechanistic, inside-outside, mind/body duality. Thirdly, at every stage it is structured and the unfolding of the organic form-patterns comes from 'within' to outside, when it is a matter of life-forms, and from outside to the centre when it reaches the crystalline level. Form is something that is both connected to and separate from the discrete components, as we have observed in ourselves, or should have if we have maintained our courage to look at both ourselves and the horizon as Qur'an commands. Dependent on a rich complex of impulses from without in the environment of place/event and from within the inner environment of self/energies, the human face, the 'form' of man himself changes and alters with such rapidity we can actually see it happen at times. Both in the immediate change of 'state' and in the long-term build-up of altered 'states' we observe the form of man change across the discrete or apparently discrete matter of his biological structure. We are dealing with a world which is nothing but 'meanings'.

Meaning – MA'NA – is a key word in sufic study. Here is its root: 'Meaning'; 'mind-image'; 'considered as having a word applied to denote it'; 'being intended by a word'; 'what the word indicates.'

In the Diwan of the Shaykh al-Kamil he says:

Oh you who desire the presence of being an eyewitness,

    you must rise above the spirit and the forms –

and cling to the original Void – and be as if

    you were not, oh annihilated!

Truly, you will see existence by a secret

    whose meanings have spread in every age.

None of the images of action and entity

     multiply the Actor in any way.

So whoever rises above every vanishing thing

     will be shown existence without duality.

In his song, 'Withdrawal into the Perception of the Essence', Allah speaks:

The Attributes of My Essence were hidden,

    and they were manifested in the existence-traces.

Truly, created beings are meanings set up in images.

   All who grasp this are among the people of discrimination.

In the root definition of ma'na we come back to the pivotal balance between letters and the appearance of forms. It is what is intended by the word. At the core of this we have the sufic teaching about the Name itself from which all the names come.

On this teaching Shaykh al-Kalabadhi says:

Some of the Masters maintain that the Names of Allah are neither Allah nor other-than-Allah: this is parallel to their doctrine concerning the Attributes. Others hold the view that the names of Allah are Allah.

Both of these are two ways of saying the same thing, only one makes a distinction in description. The teaching of Harith al-Muhasibi is the most pure, which teaches that Allah's speech consists of the letters and the sounds and that these are Attributes of Allah uncreated in His Essence.

We note the scientists use the word 'dictionary' to denote the source-book of the coding – to the people of the Path such a projective image is inadequate. When Qur'an, the Book of the Books that we have, which is in turn merely the manifest version of the Hidden Book, states that everything is written in a manifest Book, we recognise that the record is the Reality itself in its unfolding. When it says that 'everyone has their Book,' we recognise not only the record of the destiny which is written in the cells, but the record of the cells which was written in the destiny before it took place.

Roman Jakobson, a linguist who is profoundly aware of the metaphysical implications of his science, states:

How should one interpret all these salient homologies between the genetic code which 'appears to be essentially the same in all organisms' (J.D. Watson: 'Molecular Biology of the Genes') and the architectonic model underlying the verbal codes of all human languages, and, nota bene, shared by no semiotic systems other than natural language or its substitutes. The questions of these isomorphic features become particularly instructive when we realise that they find no analogue in any system of animal communication.

We must emphasise that there is no suggestion that the scientists are proving anything, but one can valuably assimilate their observations when they are made with such clarity of vision – but from our point of view it is the scientist who has to come to terms with the basic problems underlying his position of fantasy-objectivity and dualistic language with all its pitfalls of teleology and so on which only have meaning while the whole thing remains 'a problem' that they arrogantly imagine they are 'solving'.

Our picture of language – of the letters – is that they are the very creation process – the appearance of the phenomenal forms. The letters which appear at the very beginning of the form-situation (when the four basic conditions – hot, cold, wet, dry, mix – and the four basic elements emerge – air, earth, fire, water, which give us the creation) are surrounded by Heavens, by angelic activity, by orbit, therefore movement and activity. Within the creation the letters unfold their messages of form until man himself emerges in the 'solid' world. When Sayyedina Adam manifests, he is given, in the Qur'anic expression, 'all the names.' It is this that marks him out as man, the Khalif of Allah in His creation. For, once there are forms – once there is a creation – then Allah is Hidden because He is Manifest everywhere. Once He is Hidden, He leaves His Khalif – for the Khalif is the one who stands in during the absence of the King. The language of Adam, and the languages of the adamic peoples, are nothing other than the 'knowing' of the creational original letters. Just as language is built into the cells at the molecular level, so it comes out from man in his molecular totality. That is why when we examine the Arabic language, which is, remember, the oldest of the semitic group, we find that in its root condition, everything connects to a specific existential or phenomenal reality, as we have seen throughout this work.

Part of the blindness of the modern Muslims to their own spiritual heritage has been their deep lack of understanding of the Arabic language. They have reduced the language which was created for the Wisdom-transaction to nothing more than a mercantile exchange transaction. A modern Arabic dictionary reveals a complete break in the language from its roots, an abstracting from the root-specificity and a disastrous annexation of the mercantile coding of the bourgeois society which has so successfully conquered them by its supremacy of values over the Wisdom-Way which always yields to the force of greed and power and ambition. It is not that the Christian bourgeois society is superior to the Wisdom-transaction – simply that men have abandoned it and corrupted it enough to allow the other its supremacy.

This creation-picture of reality as a Book which unfolds its meanings and story is emerging in a profounder light than the original idea that we entertained of it being merely some primitive myth. Qur'an says:

Nought of disaster befalls in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being – Lo! that is easy for Allah. (Qur'an 57.22)

Our last task will be to look at the time-picture and the time/space reality in which we find ourselves in the light of this Wisdom-teaching. For we have already arrived at a position where we are forced to recognise the illusory nature of time. We cannot understand the meaning of the forms coming-into existence, the encoding of the organism, unless we grasp the constancy of the creation-situation. Look again at the description that the Shaykh al-Akbar gives of the human being's life, death and continuation (pages 171-2) and you are opening to a totally new vision of how-it-is. In this picture of existence, the Qur'an is not merely the Book of Changes, but it is the Source-Book of Forms, al-Mutashabih, The Conformable-in-all-its-parts, for that is the nature of the great cosmic reality of the Universe. By extension, it is not merely the Book of Forms, it is itself compounded of the stuff of existence, it is dynamic, active and effective – as well as containing the discrimination-practice about such existential matters as marriage, divorce and weaning and war, and the unitary teaching about the Truth, it is itself a living and activating energy-process which, once read or recited, takes on an alchemical power which transmutes the situation into which it manifests its letters and sounds into the air and into the hearts of the listeners in the Seen and the Unseen realities.

'The letters,' says the Shaykh al-Akbar, 'are the Imams of preservation.' It is they which 'uphold' the space/time reality of the organism, it is their underlying, hidden reality at the genetic level that sustains the being in its existence of duration/state. It is they which act in the bringing into existence from the Names the myriad forms of creation. The Master explains further:

Know, may Allah give us and you success, that the letters are one of the communities, speaking and obligated. There are Messengers in them from themselves, and they have names in respect to them. Only the people of unveiling from our Path know this. They have divisions in practice They have a Shari'a which they worship by, and they have both subtleties and densities.

The Interspace between the letters and the Names, the source of all letters, is the 'Alif, whose numerical value is 1. Of it he says:

The 'Alif is not from the letters with whoever smells a scent of the realities, but the common folk call it a letter. So when the Realised say that it is a letter, they say that by way of metaphor in expression. The dot of the circle encompassment, the simple and complex of the worlds, are neither in it nor out of it.

Another letter that moves about in its significance, and thus makes for a difference in calculation depending on its specific role in that particular picture, is Hamza. He explains its particular function thus:

The Hamza intersects time and unites whatever it is near to, from separation.

It is time (dahr) and its power is great. It is beyond being contained in the striking of a mithal.

The appended charts will give you a first outline of the letters and their Heavens, their inter-relatedness, and their elemental nature.

Chart 1 : The Four Matrices of hot / dry / cold / wet.

Chart 2 : The Movement of the Heavens which create the four matrices which give the four elements.

Chart 3 : The Creation as a 7 / 9 unfolding: manifesting the elements.

Chart 4 : The Creation showing the zones of the letters.

Chart 5 : The Heavens of the Four Elements.

This is followed by individual charts of each of the 29 letters of the alphabet.

After the letters come the vowels, and the vowels of the letters are 6. They enter into the letters after their shaping. So then:

There is another growth called a word, as the bringing-together in a person makes man. Thus the world of words and phrases grows from the world of letters. So the letters belong to the words in affection like water, earth, fire and air belong to the setting up of the growth of bodies.

With the zone of word-to-phrase, or word-to-sign, if we stick to the Qur'anic language we enter a further complexification of the different patterns of existence. Realities arise due to this organisation of letter units.

These realities which are from organisation exist by its existence and vanish with its non-existence. So the reality of 'animal' only exists with the authorship of vocable intelligible realities in their essence, and they are body, nutrition and sense. When body, nutrition and sense are combined then the reality of 'animal' appears. It is not the body alone, nor the nutrition alone, nor the sense alone. If the reality of feeling falls away while body and nutrition remain, then you say 'plant', a reality which is not the first one.

The Shaykh al-Akbar outlines three vital aspects that make up existence. He calls these: the Wealthy Independent Essence – the Sufficiency: a poor essence that is dependent upon the former: a third essence that is the connecting essence by which the second is dependent. He links these three aspects of Lord: slave: source-form: to the very nature of language itself. So we then define language as being contained also in three realities, the same three – essence: occurrence: connection.

This gives us: Noun / Essence –

Verb / Occurrence –

Preposition / Connection.

This third connecting term we will examine in full in the next stage of our search. It is enough for the moment to observe the unifying principle of the teaching as it follows the structuring of language and relates it to the complexification of existence itself.

A further aspect of language comes when we go from the separate words to the phrases, the signs. Here phrases are seen to be on four divisions which are the matrices, like coldness, heat, dryness, and wetness in the elements. These are:

1) Clear phrases: nouns, intransitives like ocean, key, scissors.

2) Understood phrases: which have an accepted designation of type: like man and woman.

3) Homonyms: phrases of one form with differences of meaning, like 'ayn – eye/source: mushtari – seller/buyer: insan – man/pupil of the eye.

4) Synonyms: words with different forms which indicate one meaning: lion – asad, hizabr, ghadanfar: sword – sayf, husam, sarim: wine – khamr, rahiq, sahba', khandaris.

So we now find ourselves with language which is here to tell us about the reality of our existence.

The Qur'an, when we examine it, instructs us in two means of approach to the Reality. At first glance they are utterly contradictory. One tells us that no form or concept may describe or circumscribe the Reality, that is beyond association. On the other hand, we find the Book full of phrases which seem in blatant contradiction to this – we read of His hand, and that He settled on the Throne, and so on. We now have to extend this picture we have of existence in its intricate inter-relatedness, the cosmic reality in all its vastness and complexity crowned by this self-aware creation, Man, and recognise him as both Khalif of the Divine Reality and slave. We have to examine how the exalted Lord and the slave are 'connected', and the nature of the connection, given that we can connect nothing to Him.

We have reached a point where we must ask questions about the nature of knowledge, and the nature of the creational realities, in order to understand the meaning of the Tawhid, the Unity itself.

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