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Radical Islamic Anthropology: Key to Christian Theologizing in the Context of Islam

by David Emmanuel Singh

Rev. David Emmanuel Singh is the Acting Director of Henry Martyn Institute: International Centre for research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation, Hyderabad, India. This article is from the book Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, published by the United Theological College, 2001. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


In outlining the possibilities of Christian thinking in relation to Islam I had in a paper attempted to present my views on the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm about the importance of Christian-Muslim interface for theologizing.1 I had introduced the idea of the different purposes of the Bible and the Qur’an as an approach to the common material. but also interjected that, while there is much that appears as common, there is also much that is distinctively Christian or Islamic. For instance, though Christian-Muslim ideas converge, at least apparently, on the notions of God as transcendent and man being his servant or worshipper, any suggestion of God-man association apart from these polar categories is found suspect in Muslim-Christian dialogical situations.

Islam is understood to be as old as humanity. It is therefore, understandable that the Qur’an presents a vindication of its focal point in the ideas of the prophetic role of ‘warning’ and leading people to the right path of the worship of one God from Adam to the last prophet Muhammad. This larger structure of prophecy beginning from Adam and ending in Muhammad incorporates a particular objective of showing how from the time of the father of Judaism and the spiritual father of Christianity, Abraham to the time of the last prophet, Muhammad through the line of Ishmael, prophets fulfill the fundamental purposes.

The accounts of the prophets in the Qur’an are presented as those who support Muhammad’s call against sin of associating others with the transcendent God who alone is worthy of worship and the warning of punishment to those who do not heed their warnings. These prophets remain fixed in their historical contexts and their stories are assumed to be relevant only because they serve as illustrations of what might happen to those who do not heed the warnings of Muhammad. Jesus in this context, features as one of the Major Prophets. His story however, differs a bit from the stories about the other prophets. He does not appear to match this type of prophets in the Qur’an, entirely. We know that the conflict of Muhammad with the Jews in Medina was largely political in nature, whereas the conflict with Christians had a doctrinaire dimension in that it centered on the nature and being of God.

The specific issue between Muslims and Christians during Muhammad’s time and now continues to be Christological. The image of God as the Transcendent Other appears to be sacrificed by the Christian notion of Jesus as the ‘Son of God’, and Trinity. Thus the dominant image of Jesus in the Qur’an is not as one of the prophets who serve to illustrate the message and the ministry of Muhammad and also serve as a warning to those who do not listen to him, but as one who corrects Christians of exceeding the bounds "the Islamic structure of prophecy".

We know that certain Mystical traditions of Islam attempt to transcend "the traditional structure of prophecy" to create space for the parallel institution of sainthood. This trend within Islam appears to correspond to the image of Jesus in the Qur’an where he is represented as critiquing Christians of transcending the prophetic structure. Here the emphasis shifts from the literal, esoteric understanding of the texts to ‘direct’ and unmediated knowledge of God notionally explicating the contents of the Qur’an. It will not be possible to elaborate these liberative hermeneutical trends in Islam in this paper, but I shall attempt to present the idea of sainthood as an aspect of the notion of al-insan al-kamil (the Perfect Man) and point to some broad Christological reflections.

Further, the Qur’anic insistence on the transcendence of God and ‘polemics’ against Christian idea of the coming together of God and creature in a sort of ontological relations was simply beyond the known categories of thought during Muhammad’s time, for the Greek thought had not yet impregnated Islam. There is therefore, a possibility of Christological thinking in the context of sources in Islamic tradition that we know have been impregnated with Greek ideas.

I am in this paper attempting to make a beginning in these directions.

The Notions of Absolute Transcendence of God

Fundamental to the Qur’an is the image of God being the absolute creator, master, king, deity, majesty who stands as an antithesis to humanity as creature, servant, worshipper, lowly-humble creature full of awe of the Other. In this context the Christian idea of Jesus being the son or trinity might have sounded blasphemous; for how could one suppose Creator-creature, Master-servant, King-subject, Deity-worshipper disjunction ever disappearing.

Common sense and the experience of ‘growing up’ with my own daughter has taught me something that I think is fundamentally true. All parents find their children exceptional. I am no different. But I would like to qualify this confession a bit. As a young child of twelve, my daughter is exceptionally clever,2 but this appraisal of her needs qualification lest my readers think of me as just another naïve parent being carried away by the warmth of feelings. With all her endowments, the reason why I still think she has to grow up is because she associates things, events, people and actions in neat categories of good-bad, wrong-right, true-false, warm-cold and so on. Experience has taught me that though it is tolerable to describe the bath water in the simple categories of warm-cold, it would be disastrous, in practice, if I failed to comprehend the possibility of the degrees of coldness and warmness. Just as the water can be found in degrees of heat and cold as [again simplified] hot stream, scalding hot liquid, warm liquid and temperate, cold, freezing cold and solid ice, things, people, events and actions are likely to be found in a variety of states and valence. One of the first signs of the growth is the awareness of the reality of polarity. But if one remains at the level of simple polarities it is easy to say that there is some problem. This is the case, for instance with most resurgent or reactionary movement and that is the reason why such movements are described by the term [loaded now with negative connotation] fundamentalism. The essence of fundamentalism is in that it views complexities simplistically in mere polarities of truth-falsehood, good-bad, God-devil, we-they, heaven-hell and so on. An evidence of such simplistic positioning is also in the way movements are described through terms such as ‘rightist’ ‘centrist’ and ‘leftist’.

It is acceptable in ordinary speech to simplify complexities and use a language that is least encumbered by intricacies. But not so when one is attempting to address matters that concern deep human consciousness of God; for one needs to exercise utmost caution and rigor in speaking as accurately as humanly possible. Not all complexities are possible for human language to capture and describe; in such cases it is important to recognize the complexity, and then proceed with the best possible narration.

Fundamentally, Christianity, Islam and Judaism think of God and humanity in polar terms. To a large extent, the dominant traditions of Judaism and Islam have remained at a plane where the rigor in speaking or thinking of God in terms that may truly reflect the mystery of the divinity, transcending the polarity of God and humanity, is almost lacking.

The Qur’an, for instance, is full of references, which under shore the simple polarity as pointed out above. For instance, it speaks of the earth and heaven, Lord-men, Hell and heaven,3 good deeds and by implication its opposite the bad deeds, righteous soul and by implication the unrighteous soul, at the judgment day4; Light-darkness, believers-unbelievers;5 God-creation;6 servant-master;7 Good-evil.8 There also the repetitive emphasis on the otherness of God as in the notions of "the Lord of the Throne of Glory Supreme",9 "Lord of the Throne of Honor;"10 emphasis on His power "Lord of Power;"11 His reach "The Lord of the two Easts and Two Wests,"12 and so on.

I have pointed this out in a publication before that the sovereignty and the otherness of God was one of the fundamental principles of the political ideology of one of this century’s greatest Muslim thinkers, namely, Mawlana Mawdudi’s (d. 1979).13 Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) is credited with the distinction of being one of the first Indian to have written seriously on Christian theological themes. He is known to have studied Persian and Arabic. He not only was well versed in Islam. but was also to a large extent influenced by it. A clear evidence of this influence is in his acceptance of the doctrine of virgin birth. God to him was totally transcendent and had no ontological relations with any of his creation, not least especially Christ.14

Christianity speaks of the possibility of a more complex state of affair than assumed by the notion of radical separation between God and humanity -- so that there is no possibility of doing theology without Christology. An evidence of the notion of ‘shades’ or ‘degrees’ in the complexity of world-human-God relationship is modeled in the way Christ has been perceived in Indian Christian Theology. I am attempting to furnish a very broad sketch of the variety of Indian Christian perception of God-Christ relations as a background for a more detailed appraisal of insights on the same subject from a mystical tradition of Islam.

The Idea of Theo-Anthropos

The notion of God-man is widespread in world religions. Almost every religion has in it the presence of the idea that the divine is borne in some inexplicable ways by the human. Sometimes it is clearly metaphorical as when one assumes that certain characteristics are divine, sacred, or holy. For instance, when these characteristics are perceived as exhibited in an individual enduringly and in a sense in which these are understood to affect the world around in a favorable fashion -- either in an objective sense of effecting something concrete outside such a person [like effecting healing, foretelling, acting as medium in a non-rational manner or simply doing good or saying good to help the people selflessly], exhibiting personal traits, conditions and states which are known to be ‘abnormal’ [like going into trances, hearing voices, seeing visions, or just the simple unconventional behavior, which proceed from such an individual’s horizon to affect, influence, impact others’ horizons] -- or is subjectively perceived to be extra-ordinary -- such an individual is said to be godly, god-bearing, pious or saintly.

The elemental notion of god-bearing individuals may be spoken of in an ontological sense when one perceives a sense in which the individual’s personality appears to alter or fuse in those ‘abnormal’ ‘eccentric’ phases to effect specific outcomes for "the individual in a community of faith" or for the community of faith extraneous to the individual.15 When the fusion of the individual’s personality with the alleged divine being is complete and permanent, such an individual may be said to have actualized the ideal state of union with the divine, which may be reversible or irreversible state of being.

Two basic terms have been used to describe the degrees of union of the divine-human poles in Indian Christian theology, namely, avatara and incaro [incarnation from the Latin verb incarnari]. The word avatara is loosely translated in English as ‘incarnation’, but is a compound of ava (down) and tr (save). Thus the term avatara literally means ‘one who comes down to save’ or simply ‘descent’. The term incaro is also a compound of in (in or into) and cam (flesh). Thus incaro or incarnation means ‘enfleshment’. There are important differences between the two terms, which must be noted. An avatara is one who assumes the form of a creature or man for a specific purpose and once the work is accomplished the reversal occurs; an avatara comes to save the righteous and destroy the sinful; the assumption of creaturely form may be complete or partial. On the other hand, incarnation involves a complete fusion of the ‘contraries’; like avatara the sense of purpose is dominant in the mission and work, but the ‘enfleshment’ affected is irreversible; the underlying purpose of incarnation is to save the sinners, the lost, the oppressed and the poor. The term avatar and incarnation therefore, must be used with these qualifications.

In informal Buddhism the veneration offered to the Buddha and Bodhisatva borders on ‘worship’ according the status of ones in whom the divine is ‘enfleshed’ or the divine ‘descended’ to guide the followers to the desired goal of Buddhism.16 Similarly in Jainism the veneration accorded to the Thirtankaras is similar in its features to the way in which the devotees relate to the Bodhisatvas. Chinese, Japanese religions, Zoroastrianism, Preliterary religions also contain such ideas.17

Indian Christian theologians recognized the centrality of the notion of incarnation as God bearing man or God-man and have given it due consideration in their theologies. Some in their attempt to show the nature of the fusion go on to the extreme of completely idealizing Christ or reducing him to the predominantly universal, cosmic, nirguna or infinite role, while the others radically delimit deity in the historical finitude and particularity of the man Jesus.

1. Indian Christian Theology and God-man/Christ Relationship

Let me begin with a provocative assertion. It sounds cruel, but it is true. The majority within Indian Christianity does not exhibit theological creativity. This means that a large number of Christians follow the traditional beliefs of their antecedents, churches or mission bodies that led them to Christianity. The indigenous theological/christological thinking has largely been the initiative of individual theologians -- lay or theologically trained -- and not the pews. Theological creativity has not been a broad-based movement. It has largely been an elite function. It therefore, lacks a widespread critique of traditional theology.

Christians by and large have remained aloof to the challenge of reviewing or re-conceiving their faith in God and Christ in terms of the local or ambient faiths. But this is not to suggest that there is no Indian theology. There have been and still are outstanding individuals in all the major traditions of Christianity who have contributed and are contributing to theological thinking in the context of the religious traditions of India.

These theologies have ranged from the traditional absolute and exclusive positions to relativised image of Christ in the context of the plurality of faiths. I am, below, reviewing the understandings of a few selected theologians on the idea of God-man.

The chalcedonian formula (CE 451) emphasized the idea of ‘fully God and fully man’.18 Generally speaking thus, Christology has been viewed in Christianity from two extremes ends humanity/particularity and divinity/universality. Alexandrian and Antiochian positions representing these positions were concerned to show Christ’s authentic divinity by stressing that he was both fully God and fully man and yet was an integrated personality. The former conceived of the ‘priority’ of the pre-existing Christ as logos descending. The latter begins with the true human aspect and posits an ascent Christology. Both of these trends are visible prominently or faintly in Indian Christology.

i) Priority of Humanity: Ascent Christology

Samartha represents Indian theology and Christology done in the context of the Hindu philosophy19 and the global trend toward some sort of relativity.20 He thus predictably presents the relativised image of Christ in pressing for a sense of mystery about God. Samartha raised three basic questions:21 i) Is Christ Lord of all? ii) Is not the manner in which we use the word Lord, developed in the west, where religious pluralism was not a significant factor? He finds a basis for a paradigm suited for religiously plural milieu in the concept of "the Mystery".22 The image of God as the eternal Mystery always remains larger than any local conception of God.

Christ of Samartha, therefore, is not to be made Out to be absolutely singular manifestation of the Mystery and thus his caution against "Jesuology" and "Christomonism". A "theocentric Christology," is to him desirable for it gives the rightful priority to God.23 The priority of the Mystery over particular manifestations may be identified with the priority of God over Jesus in Biblical theology where Christ appears functionally subservient to God through the unity of will, purpose and obedience.24 Such a Christ then becomes a model of Christian unity of will, purpose and obedience of God.

P. Chenchiah (1886-1959) presents a unique image of Christ as the Product of Theo-Anthropos (God-Man)25 Jesus Christ is the starting point of theology and not Mystery. It is hardly surprising that Chenchiali’s fundamental concern chronologically prior to Samartha, however, is not to address the problem of pluralism, but rather to attempt to understand the mystery of Christ-God relationship in the background of the dominant evolutionary theory.

Essential to Chenchiah’s idea is the notion that man is evolving towards Christic perfection. Christ is the model first fruit of a new order of beings; a being that had not been in existence before. This being cannot be bound by sin, karma, and death and essentially participates in the nature of God. But he is not God himself; he is God in relation to man. He is not God or man, the son or the Son of God, or a God-man, but is the result or the outcome of God and man. Man also following Jesus can become like him, a product of the coming together of God and man through the Holy Spirit.

ii) Priority of Divinity: Descent Christology

K C Sen (1838-1884) spoke of God in aspects of God in Himself and God for us. The latter was identified with the logos, the agent of creation, Lord who was born as Jesus in the fullness of time. Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya (1861-1907) speaks of the transcendent Brahma, the sat, and Eternal logos, the cit. The former is nirgun and infinite and compare with the idea of God-in-Himself and the latter is sagun and allows relations and is identifiable with the idea of God-for-us. The cit as a pre-existential reality is actualized in the God-man Jesus Christ.

Though his exegesis of the brahma sutra 1:1.2, Panikker (b. 1918) appears to present an idea similar to Upadhyaya and Sen. But the balance between pre-existential cit and actualized God-man experiences a tilt in favor of the absolute priority of the cosmic, universal Christ in Panikker’s later writings. Panikker clearly rejects the idea of trinity in favor of theandric (divine-human) to refer to the actuality of ontological unity modeled in Christ Jesus. Humanity on their part, ascend to realize this ideal theandrism from ‘below’.

Conceptually though, the ideal Christology would be one which balances the cosmic, infinite, pre-existential logos [word/thought] with the historical, particular, finite actuality [of man Jesus]. Demonstration of such a complex fusion could only be made if this is done in the context of a framework that will enable the polarities and contradictions to remain without sacrificing the ontological integrity of the notion of God-man.

Though, Islam is generally understood to be anti-incarnational the ideas of the imam in the Shia sects, the idea of the Mahdi in Mahdawism, the ideas of sainthood, poles, pirs, mujawirs and murshids, and places such as tombs of the saints and dargahs are deemed to be infused with certain amount of the sacred. But above all, the idea of alinsan al-kamil in theoretical mysticism smacks of the internalization of the notions of God bearing-man or God-man, indeed an idea that transforms the very notion of God. Divine. Being.

2. The Promise of Christological Thinking in the Context of the Idea of al-insan al-kamil

I have observed that one way to approach the issue of Christology in Islamic context would be to seek out sources in Islam as it grew beyond the sanitized environs of Arabia and came in contact with peoples from other lands, religions and philosophies. In particular one must look for evidence of thinkers and writers who upon their encounters with Greek philosophy represented Islam in newer philosophical terms and whose legacies were continued by theoretical mysticism. One must ask the question as to whether these newer systems of thought and Islam as it got filtered through them perceived God-man; theology-anthropology poles differently than did their conservative antecedents living within the sterile Semitic environments.

a) Relation between the Divine-human Realms in Arab Philosophy: The Emerging Possibility of the Idea of al-insan al-kamil (the Perfect Man)

Aristotelian worldview dominated Arab philosophy primarily because it provided an apparatus to doubt the prophetic-mystical routes to knowledge and to shore up the rational epistemology. Arab philosophy was essentially Islamic and so it could not have remained purely Aristotelian. The Aristotelian worldview was closed and posited fixed boundaries around the universe. It had no space for the supposed intelligible or divine world apart from the sensible and rational world of humanity. Thus there was no possibility of conceiving of the a real objective and truly existent transcendent God and the ‘potential’ realities existing in transcendent region of the Divine for the simple reason that ‘potential/ subtle/cognitive realities’ apart from the form, shape or body were inconceivable.

Arab philosophy after al-Kindi26 [al-Farabi,27 Ibn Sina28 and Ibn Rushd 29] gradually adopted a synthetic worldview incorporating Platonic idea of the existence of the intelligible world existing separate from the sensible world for three reasons: i) To make space for the possibility of preserving the transcendence of the Divine: ii) To create a notional space for the prophetic-mystical epistemology; iii) To make the philosophers’ rational knowledge of the entire reality possible. Subscription to the first two purposes was basic to the Islamic identity of the Arab philosophers, while the third purpose was fundamental to philosophical epistemology. The Platonic worldview distinguishing the Intelligible and sensible worlds made space for the realization of the first two purposes. while the Aristotelian worldview conceiving the reality as existing within the purview of human rationality in a synthetic framework of form and essence made the rational epistemology possible. The Aristotelian strain in Arab philosophy conceived of the reality as being essentially synthetic and preserved the possibility of rational perception of such a reality occurring in layers or degrees of causes and their effects with in the delimited universe. The Platonic strain however, preserved the Islamic idea of the transcendent in relation to the ontologically different world of humanity.

The famous Islamic philosopher, traditionalist and mystic. al-Ghazzali critiqued Arab philosophers for their pretense in assuming that the reality could be known by humanity through their faculty of reason30 Arab philosophical epistemology was to al Ghazzali radically reductionistic, for it involved a low view of the human nature and the human potential for knowledge of and relations with the transcendental realities beyond what the rational aspect of man allowed. He posited a multi-faculty human soul mirroring a multi-layered reality possessing multi-layered epistemic value. In his view of humanity, rational faculty of man was radically relativised as a lower faculty that linked with a reality that was lower than the transcendental object of knowledge. In a simplified scheme, his multi-faculty humanity possessed broadly speaking three layered faculties that connected with the three broad divisions of the entire affair, namely, sensible, rational and transcendental -- the highest being the transcendental spirit of humanity that was capable of connecting with the Other by virtue of being in possession of a core that corresponded to the Other.

This model relativized the philosophers and philosophical systems. They were legitimate ways of acquiring knowledge, but of the reality that was lower in its truth/ reality-value in relation to the transcendental object, namely God. Prophets and saints assumed a higher place in relation to the philosophers, as those who shook off the encumbrance of rationality and their lower selves to rise higher to link with the source of their transcendental spirit in an ascending fashion, as it were.

b) The Idea of al-insan al-kamil

Al-Ghazzali is known to be the most important thinker prior to Ibn Arabi who attempted to explain the tradition of the prophet, which is believed to be speaking of human correspondence with God. Masataka Takeshita has in his work examined some of the works of al-Ghazzali to recover his thinking on this issue of correspondence.31 The tradition in question is as follows: "whoever knows himself knows God." Takeshita examines some of the major works of al-Ghazzali like ihya’ ulum al-din, imla’ asma’ allah al-husna, mishkat al-anwar and al-madnun al-saghir and concludes that: There are two types of correspondences:

i) Moral or ethical correspondence -- where it is possible to find certain similarities in God and man since like God man also possesses the qualities of ‘goodness’ and ‘mercy’ etc. and;

ii) Correspondences that cannot or are not allowed to be spoken out -- these lie in the spirit breathed into man by God and thus belongs to the transcendent locus; this then is the reason why mystical knowledge and union with God becomes possible. Al-Ghazzali also presents man as a miniature of the universe [universe itself is deemed to be perfect]. Man relates to the universe as a microcosm relates to the macrocosm. This is so because man combines in himself both the characteristics of the transcendental world and the phenomenal world. Man is therefore, a synthetic being.

The idea of man as the microcosm imaging the macrocosm is significant. The macrocosm is naturally differentiated since there is the idea of the ‘higher’ or spiritual world and its symbol, the ‘lower’ or the visible world. Man as the microcosm likewise contains within him the differentiation of aspects that correspond to the lower and aspects that correspond to the higher worlds, just as illustrated through the idea of the multi-faculty soul of man above.

Al-Ghazzali clearly subscribed to the view that there was something special in man, namely the image or spirit that corresponded with God. This image could be enhanced by the human ascent involving the transcendental spirit to the transcendental realms through hierarchically appropriating the characteristics or the attributes of God. The end of this ‘upward’ movement was posited to be the experience of the mystical union with God -- described by the term fana’ (loss of self-consciousness) or fana’ al-fana’ (loss of the consciousness of fana’). After this experience of the realization of the unity of human spirit with the transcendental object, the saint or the mystic returned or descended to the world of phenomena.

Al-Ghazzali also addressed the question of the source and the nature of the transcendental spirit in humanity. The source was clearly identified with the process of the divine inbreathing, which effected the formation of man. The nature of the spirit was thus such that it naturally inclined towards its source namely God. It knew itself and its creator because it was the ‘spirit of God.’

AI-Ghazzali however, rejected the idea of descent of God. If mystics like al-Hallaj made such claims, they were not necessarily wrong; they were simply in illusion or were confusing an upward movement of man with the downward movement of God. This was an important point for al-Ghazzali, for as a Muslim he had to reject any suggestions of the acceptance of the Christian idea of incarnation (hulul)32

The idea of al-insan al-kamil however, was developed far beyond its antecedent ideas of ‘spirit’, image etc. in al-Ghazzali. To generalize one may say that al-insan al-kamil was a synthetic being. He combined two diametrically opposite aspects of the divine reality -- the sensible and spiritual worlds; sensible/rational and spiritual faculties. This means that the divine reality is made up of such a synthesis, which is reflected in the al-insan al-kamil. This metaphysical being is the model and also the object of the saints’ emulation and indeed the archetype of the awaited world restorer, the eschatological Messiah (mahdi) whose task will be to vitalize the religion in preparation for the coming of Jesus of the Qur’an in the final hour.

The questions now are: Who is the metaphysical-pre-existent and eschatological-future messiah? What is the role and purpose of the al-insan al-kamil -- is his role to do with descent, ascent or both? What then could be the nature of Christological confession?

i) The Model of the Entire Affair and the Images of al-insan al-kamil

Ibn ‘Arabi employed the term al-amr (entire affair) to refer to the totality of wujud (existence/being). He posited that al-amr had normative polarity within it, namely al-haqq (the Truth) and al-khalq (Creation).33 He described al-haqq by the term al-wujud al-mahd (sheer being [SB])34 SB paralleled the idea of God described by Michael Sells as ‘God-in-himself’ or that aspect of God that is absolute and unconditional essence -- remote and mysterious; wrathful and majestic.35 This idea equals the notions of sat in Upadhyaya. brahma in Panikker, "mystery" in Samartha. SB does not allow any differentiation; it is impossible to say anything meaningful or positive concerning it. It was important to hold on to this supposition in order to preserve the notion of tawhid (unity) of God. But to make space for the possibility of creation the following supposition was necessary.

The notion of al-khalq, unlike al-haqq, had a polarity within it, namely, al-imkan al-mahd (sheer possibility [SP]) and al- ‘adam al-mahd (sheer non-existence [SN]).36 SN was a mere conceptual category to refer to objects that might not exist in SP as fragments of thoughts or intentions of the divine to create or actualize. It was the idea of SP that was central to his ontological model.37

SP contained in itself a tension between already and not yet; actualized and possible; knowledge or thought of what could, should and would exist as a concrete image of the prior thought. SP as the state of being harboring the thoughts of existences to be transmuted from possibilities to actualities may be compared to the notion of God-for-us, the ishvara of Hinduism in Panikker, and the notion of cit in Upadhyaya. The limitation of S J Samartha’s position however, is that he does not posit any ‘middle being’ like the kind Upadhyaya and Panikker posit and is inherent in the idea of SP. This lands his system into all sorts of philosophical problems. He jumps from the Absolute Unconditional Mystery to a notion of ‘fragmented particular manifestations’ of the mystery -- Jesus Christ being one among many. The philosophical problems in not assuming a ‘middle reality’ like SP, cit or ishvara are: that the unity and transcendence of the Mystery or SB or sat cannot be fully preserved; one will of necessity suppose that the Mystery, sat, or SB contains all the differentiation that one encounters in the universe -- a position that would jeopardize the notion of absolute unity. The idea of SP, cit or ishvara was therefore, a philosophical necessity. In the case of Islamic philosophical mysticism it was also a religious necessity to suppose a ‘middle reality’ in order to safeguard the notion of tawhid (Unity of God).

The idea of SP is therefore, significant. Its nature and coming into being may now be discussed in more details in relation to its connection with humanity and not least with Jesus. SP is as Ibn ‘Arabi has noted in one of his shorter treatises, the aspect of the God which faces the world. It is the face described by the term al-jamal (beauty) in contrast to the face that is described by the term al-jalal (utter majesty [transcendence supposed in the Arabic word al-haqq and the compound al-wujud al-mahd (SB)]. SP as the jamal aspect of God is also supposed to be the facet of God that is potentially and actually immanent. This is so because SP denotes two states:

• The state of the immanent God-for-us which contains within it the thought of the totality of existents prior to their creation. It is the ‘pregnant’ God ‘bearing’ the worlds to be in his intention, thought or the spirit. This may be said to be al-khalq in potentiality from the ontological point of view.

• The state of immanence where the spirit, thought of the God-for-us is actualized or individuates through receiving concrete independent being through the spirit’s all comprehensive activity. This may be said to be al-khalq in actuality from the ontological perspective.

The Qur’anic language of the form-spirit is used with reference to the cosmic becoming of al-khalq in Ibn’ Arabi.38 The point is that al-khalq as pure thought of the worlds to be [SP] receives its being as the actualized worlds in the same way as Jesus came into being. The spirit/word/thought that made the actualization of Jesus possible is not just a supreme microcosmic example, but indeed to be identified with the SP, God-for-us, as the ultimate cause of the entire creation.

In the Qur’anic reference to the creation of Adam, spirit [breath] infused the form of Adam created by God. Breath only brought life to a ‘thing’ that had already been formed. The radical mystical perspective assumes that the form is never independent from the spirit. Concrete being of Jesus and the worlds is another state of the spirit which actualizes from ‘nothing.’ effects that existed as thought or intention, but now receive concrete shape. Jesus is the actualization of the same Jesus in thought of the worlds to be and the thought of the historical-particular being.39

The Spirit was Jesus as Thought who received actualization in the form of a particular historical human kind, "a living being from clay". This Jesus as the form of the human kind was the intangible thought existing as SR symbolized by the clay mold in existential perspective. It was this thought that in some mysterious way became a living tangible existent. The conception of Jesus was neither sexual nor asexual. It was unique. He was the Spirit come into being. The material that brought intangible thought of Jesus’ form Into tangible existence was "Imaginary or Spiritual".

ii) Al-insan al-kamil as the logos, Seal of the universal Sainthood

Jeffrey in his translation40 suggests that in the shajarat al-kawn (the Tree of the Universe),41 Ibn ‘Arabi was trying to make a contribution to the general trend towards the glorification of Muhammad and was attempting to enhance his image beyond the Christian doctrine of logos.42

The treatise itself posits Allah as uniquely single and absolutely whole. This is an idea that corresponds with the idea of SB explicated above. In this light, the seen and the unseen universes of the plural existents were posited in two senses: i) In their primary objectification as the word kun (the creative command ‘Be’). Kun was pictured as the ‘exhaled breath’, which was the objectification of the ‘inner essence’ called the spirit or thoughts of the existents of the worlds to be. The idea of kun is, as suggested by Jeffrey, corresponds with the Christian notion of logos, the Word of God, the agent of creation, the pre-existential Christ. This logos is Islamized through the use of the name Muhammad.

The name Muhammad here is at best a mere traditional label referring to the pre-existential archetype containing the intention or thoughts of the possible existents.

It is known that an attempt to raise Muhammad’s status above the other prophets had been underway from the beginning of the development of the Muslim Creed. Thus for instance, we know that Muslim exegetes, traditionalists, popular preachers and storytellers contributed to the growth of the prophet’s veneration.43 It appears impossible to demonstrate it. given the constraints of space here, but I think it is plausible that Jeffrey’s position was informed by Wensinck’s work.44

The central place accorded to Muhammad and the use of theological-traditional language and structure in Sufism is hardly surprising. The presence of traditional role models, conventional vocabulary and structure is perhaps essential to determine the identity of any religio-spiritual movement. A Christian mystic is most unlikely to see a vision of Muhammad or is least likely to use Islamic symbols to convey the secrets of the world of experience. While Muslim mystics may have visions of Adam, Jesus, Abraham and Muhammad, since these are part of their conventional theological structure, they will naturally think or speak of Muhammad, at least apparently, in more familiar terms.

It appears that embellishing the radical worldview with conservative elements was perhaps necessary if. Ibn ‘Arabi wished to remain a Muslim.45 Early Muslim thinkers defined the essence of Islam and the borders of the Muslim community to help decide who could be counted as a Muslim. Thus the emphasis was placed not on the infidels outside Islam but heretics or freethinkers within Islam. The open form of freethinking existed only for a relatively short period between the 9th - 10th centuries. From the 11th century onwards it is harder to find radical ideas being expressed in clear prose. Radical ideas are rather presented in poetry, philosophical parables, sufi-metaphysical ideas and so on; for these modes of communication were safer for the writers. Ibn ‘Arabi’s style of intermixing radical elements with traditional language, models and theological structure could perhaps be explained in this background as an echo of freethinking controlled by a rigorous interpenetration of the old and the new.

How does one delineate the elements of ‘freethinking’ or ‘liberation’ in Ibn ‘Arabi? The conservative, Mu‘atazili and Zahiri critique of interiority, anthropomorphic tendencies and the idea of incarnation (hulul). notwithstanding. Sufism proceeded to develop beyond an ascetic cast, in order to integrate more conceptual dimensions involving the notions of divine immanence, human nearness with the divine (uns) and mystic union. The suggestion that Ibn ‘Arabi, in the 12th-l3th century, was making a Sufi contribution to the trend towards the glorification of Muhammad may be partially true. He also might well have intended to show as part of his ‘freethinking’ or liberal design, how humanity. among all creation was capable of gaining perfect knowledge in his attempt to carve out an alternate to the traditional idea of prophecy which ended with Muhammad.

The alternate to the traditional idea of prophecy was thought possible through the ‘transcendental spirit’ identified also with the faculty of the heart (al-qalb).46 He employed two terms -- fu’ad and qalb in this treatise, which have both been translated into English as ‘heart’. Al-fu’ad refers to the physical organ called the heart [of man or animals]. The term contains the idea of pulsation, inversion, and transmutation and in this sense, is similar to the root idea of al-qalb. Al-fu’ ad can also refer to the pericardium in contrast to al-qalb as the core. Metaphorically then, al-fu’ad points to the intellect issuing from the soul and is more akin to the faculty to which Arab philosophers gave primacy and hence symbolizes an aspect of man corresponding to a lower reality. In contrast, al-qalb, was identified with the site containing and indeed corresponding to the very divine qualities.

While it appears that Ibn ‘Arabi conceptually held that knowledge was possible in all human beings, he could not say that that was true actually. He thus, needed to show that whilst the most intimate knowledge was a preserve for all humanity, there were degrees of knowledge, exhibited by the prophets and most importantly in the saints. The doctrine of sainthood is complex and it is not my purpose to discuss that here, because such works have already been done generally to explicate the idea of sainthood 47 and the idea of sainthood in relation to Jesus in particular by Andreas D’Souza. We know also that one of concerns of Ibn ‘Arabi was to show how knowledge gained by the saints was of higher order than that gained by prophets. Ibn ‘Arabi got around the problem of traditional reaction by positing that Muhammad also had two levels of knowledge -- one, prophetic -- for the umma; two saintly -- for the saints. This then makes it possible to speak of an alternate and a ‘superior’ way to God [though veiled], whose leadership is not in Muhammad the historical prophet, but in Jesus the seal of the universal sainthood.

The problem is that Ibn ‘Arabi is using the name Muhammad within the structure of his ‘liberalism’ -- i.e. when speaking of the idea of sainthood. Why does he use the name Muhammad where he should have used the name Jesus, the seal of the universal sainthood?

Firstly, in answer to this question we may say that the name Muhammad is used in the treatise in a notional sense only; for anthropology and its relations with the divine or the idea of sainthood is the focus of the work. Couched in the treatise is the concern to show how sainthood is a higher category than prophecy. That is to show that the saints possess truer knowledge because of their proximity with divinity and indeed their pre-existential identity with the divinity. We know from the work of Andreas D’Souza that Jesus was identified with the ideal state of sainthood -- the perfect goal of all the saints. Thus Jesus is called the "Seal of the universal Sainthood".

In being the Seal, Jesus is the end and plentitude of perfect knowledge of God. In a system of thought where ‘knowledge’ and ‘being’ cannot be differentiated, then this means that Jesus was identified with that aspect of the perfection of God called Beauty (Jamal) or God-for-us.

Secondly, as pointed out above, though Jesus like Muhammad is the part of the traditional structure of role models, for any input to be accepted as Islamic it was important to show it in relation to Muhammad. I am suggesting therefore, that the name Jesus was deliberately replaced by the name Muhammad in order to seek legitimacy for this new and liberal input. In speaking of Muhammad here it is his sainthood or the supposed hidden connection with the idea of sainthood that is being referred to and not his prophet-hood. The name Muhammad is thus used in a non-sectarian, trans-religious and symbolic sense to refer to a higher, deeper and essential God-man correspondence exhibited by sainthood. The seal of this alternate system is not Muhammad, but Jesus.

iii) Al-Khidr 48 the Supreme Saint-instructor

The Qur’anic account of Moses and his mysterious companion is undoubtedly, the source of Muslim traditions about Moses and al-Khidr.49 Traditionally the mysterious teacher has been identified with one al-Khidr.50 The accounts of al-Khidr, the hidden saint-instructor abounds in Uwaysi hagiography as well.51 Ibn ‘Arabi includes this tradition of Moses-al-Khidr to support the idea of the superiority of the knowledge of the saints over the prophets. In the story therefore, al-Khidr, the quintessence of sainthood [a traditionally lesser position in relation to the place of the prophets in esoteric Islam] assumes the role of the primary interlocutor contributing to the cognitive development of Moses the prophet.52

History of al-Tabari indicates a number of versions of the story of al-Khidr and its connection with the Qur’an 18:61-83.53 Contrary to Ibn Ishaq, al-Tabari favors the story where al-Khidr is believed to be in existence from before Moses. Thus, certain uniqueness is claimed for al-Khidr and it is easier to speak of the superiority of sainthood over prophecy.

The root of the word khdr contains the idea of being fresh, sweet, pleasant, delicate, refreshing and green. The term khadir for instance, refers to a place having young green crop; al-khadiir, al-khadira and al-khudra likewise means "a green and rough herbage or leguminous plant . . . it rises to a height of a cubit and fills the mouth of a camel". It may also be a reference to a hardy variety plant which does not dry up in extreme dry summer but a plant that scurvies the summer and provide sustenance to life in hard times.54 In mystical Islam, the road to the stage of intimacy (uns) with God-for-us is reckoned to be lonely, for not many undertake this journey prior to death in a voluntary sort of way. Al-Khidr is that aspect of God-for-us who accompanies the murid, disciple and constantly instructs them in a way that appeals to their heart.

Concluding Remarks

I have observed that Jesus of the Christian faith does not appear to match the recurring types of ‘warning’, ‘leading people to the right path’, ‘leading people to the worship of one God’ entirely. The conflict between Christians and Muslims is historic in that it goes back to the times of Muhammad with the Christians of his time. The nature of the conflict unlike in the case of the Jews-Muslim conflict was not political but dogmatic. It concerned the nature of God.

It will be superfluous to show how impertinent these Christian dogmas of ‘the son of God or trinity’ have been and continue to be so. It appears to me that Christians who continue to use these symbols in Muslim contexts have not yet internalized the meaning and the purpose of the cross.

The cross is not a symbol of conquest, but rather a means by which Jesus, the man actualized the highest possible state of intimacy (uns) with his pre-existent or creation-generating state. Jesus sets the model of the human ‘ascent’ to God -- prior to death in the heart or spirit and after death in an involuntary sort of way. This ascent necessary involves being first swallowed by non-being [SN]; for no one can approach God-in-himself and preserve one’s sense of individuality. Uns is realized therefore, in relation to Jesus as SP and not SB. The prospect of meeting the Majesty of the divinity touches off an involuntary sense of awe, which increases in intensity until one loses a sense of one’s independent self. The self fades, but does not cease, in the aura of the divine Majesty.

On the other hand, Jesus’ ascent through the resurrection and new immortal life truly re-enacts the miracle of the primordial act of the actualization of existents in a sort of ‘upward’ or ‘backward’ sense -- that is just as creative aspect of Jesus who brought humanity into being through ‘the Spirit or the Thought’, the word kun -- out of the recesses of the darkness of non-being [SN], his return through resurrection, potentially leads humanity back to the state of uns in him. It exhibits that Jesus as the ‘Thought’ or ‘Spirit’ or SP of the worlds, beings and existents remains immutable despite the obvious flux, decay, death and passing away. The immutability of Jesus as the SP harbors primarily a message of hope of life and not judgment. Jesus who is proclaimed as living through his experience of non-being [SN] is the pre-existent SP and the eschatological mahdi -- as one who pre-exists, he actualizes existence, but as one who functions in the capacity of the eschatological mahdi, he actualizes the ascent of humanity.

Islamic Mysticism interestingly conceives of the pre-existential and eschatological state of SP in ‘human’ terms. Here humanity receives a radical reification. True humanity is not that of ‘living in flesh’ but ‘living as Spirit’. True humanity is realized, reached, or received in human ascent after the model of Jesus who first ‘descended’ and then ‘ascended’. It has to do with cognition, but not that of the rational and intellectual kind, but one that is located in the seat of being -- the heart or the transcendental spirit. Jesus as the SP is therefore, not just the God-for-us, but al-insan al-kamil. He is the source of life of all beings, a model of the saints who seek to become like him. This Jesus outstrips the close-minded domestication of the institutional Christianity and breaks from the shackles of dogmatic caricatures. He is truly God-man or theo-anthropos -- not, in the sense of combining the ‘flesh’ and the ‘spirit’, but in showing that the true theo-anthropos is Spirit or Thought of its actualization manifesting as concrete beings in time, history and space. Al-insan al-kamil is therefore, truly universal.

I pointed out above that Jesus was viewed as the quintessential saint because he harbored in him the end and plentitude of divine knowledge and thus in an external or esoteric sense stands perpetually as a yardstick of perfect knowledge of God and since knowledge and being are inseparable in the system of thought examined, he is the embodiment of divine perfection in relation to humanity and the rest of the creation. He is the God-for-us who effects the creation by virtue of the externalization of his breath/ thought/spirit expressed in the word kun and also remains the face of SB, the divine essence or mystery that stands facing humanity and the rest of the creation effected by him in all his jamal (beauty).

Humanity on their part can emulate the model sainthood of Jesus through receiving his ever-flowing effusion of al-jamal in al-qalb or the faculty of the ‘transcendental spirit’. Theoretically, man may be conceived of being the only creature capable of ‘exhausting’ the immense range and wealth of al-jamal, but in as much these graces process into the heart in an ever changing and ever transforming energy, even the perfect hearts may not hold the entirety of these graces. Thus the goal of intimacy (uns) and developmental knowledge (ma‘rifah) remains perpetually unfulfilled. Jesus, the supreme Saint,. everlastingly remains near and yet distant; friend/brother -- master/lord, which is the logic our unending devotion of him.

The Qur’anic story of the mysterious instructor of Moses, identified as al-Khidr in Islamic tradition is revolutionary in the sense that al-insan al-kamil is experienced as the Supreme Saint, al-shaykh al-akbar engaging with the saints or disciples (shaykhs or murids) as their instructor, murshid. He sensitizes their hearts (al-qalb) and enables them to transcend the boundaries of the sensible, the rational and the literal to deeper, hidden or higher objects of knowledge and states until one reaches the state of utmost intimacy (uns) and union with Jesus, the insan al-kamil. This Jesus is not just one who ‘descends’ but is also the one who leads the murids in their ascent.

This paper raises several relevant questions. Some of them pertain to hermeneutics, while the others more directly to the relationship of Christian faith with Islam or visions within the pale of Islam, such as theoretical mysticism. For instance, there are the hermeneutical questions of whether the image of Christ emerging through the glasses of Islamic mysticism is what the Bible or Biblical authors ‘intended’; If the purpose of the crystallization of the supposed authorial intention or purpose is to connect the ancient and the present ‘viewpoints’ or the worldviews, one may ask if such a possibility of a pure state of intention possible to extract at all, or is it not that the reader often always creates’ at least some elements of the supposed ‘intentions’. If the reader has some role in creating the authorial ‘intention’ then why must one suppose that such an extraction originates fully from the authors/Bible and not from the readers?

Could then one say that the images of Christ that the readers perceive form the authentic meanings for them? This is a problematic suggestion. A way around this problem would be something that Christian theologians need to solve. That is, having made one’s image of Christ for instance, in a given context, the theologian then needs to show how this image reconciles, in broad terms, with the mainline ‘conservative’ or traditional’ components of Christianity. This is crucial not because the theologians have the fear of being branded as a heretic, but because they need to work against ‘freethinking individualism’. They need to bring their conclusions before the community, lay their arguments bare and clear, and enable the community to see how their thinking matches with the ‘traditional’ and the key ongoing components of the faith. Theological creativity must never be allowed for the sake of creativity.

One way to show continuity between the traditional and creative; ongoing and newer components would be to suggest criteria for estimating the new inputs. For example, one might suggest that if the creative inputs follow that broad theological/ontological structure of the Christian faith, integrate the key role models of their faith in the new structure and their inputs can be shown to be informed directly or indirectly by their own ‘conservative’ tradition and the text, the Bible, they could be understood to be in line with Christianity.

This is where therefore the role of hermeneutics becomes significant. For instance, one might ask if the image of Christ presented in this paper corresponds with the image of Christ in line with the mainline theological structure and whether it is seen to be directly or indirectly issuing from the Bible or being informed by the it. All of these questions and issues need a full-length paper. But, just as an instance, one might suggest with regard to the first question of whether the image of Christ corresponds with the broad theological/ontological design of Christianity that for the image of Christ to be recognized as authentic the following components of the traditional theological structure will need to be taken seriously:

i) That, God has created the world and that one is not supposing an absolute identity between the creator and the creation;

ii) That, the creation was brought about Out of nothing; God is not the material cause of the creation;

iii) That, Christ as the Word of God has the key role in the bringing about of the creation.

How does the theological structure of the theoretical mysticism I have taken as the context for reflections in this paper correspond with this Biblical worldview? How do the Biblical and Islamic mystical horizons meet? How does one show that the conservative resources of the theologians inform contextual theological creativity? These questions as well the question of relevance of such creativity will need to be addressed separately.

 

End Notes

1. David Emmanuel Singh, "Islam as a Context for Christian Theologizing: A Preliminary Search", in Ban galore Theological Forum. UTC, Bangalore, Vol. XXXII. No. 2. December 2000, pp. 60-72.

2. If the term means being skillful, quick, witty, self-aware, gifted, ingenious proactive.

3. Suras 39:71-72:40:47-50:43:74; 55:43-44; 79:35-39; 2:9-11 and 57:12; 69:21-24; 78:31-35; 89:30 and so on

4. Sura 89:21-30

5. Sura 24:35 ff.

6. Sura 13:12-13; 17:44; 24:41-46

7. Sura 25:63; 18:23-24

8. Sura 4:79, 85

9. Sura 9:129

10. Sura 23:16

11. Sura 51:58

12. Sura 55:17

13. David Emmanuel Singh, "Integrative Political Ideology of Mawlan Mawdudi and Islamization of the Muslim Masses in the Indian Subcontinent" in South Asia, vol. XXIII, no. 1 (2000), pp. 129-148.

14. See Robin Boyd, Introduction to Indian Christian Theology. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1989), pp. 15-23.

15. Outside the community of faith such ‘spiritually endowed’ persons would be considered ‘mad’.

16. See Har Daynl, The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas. 1975).

17. Ishanand Vempany, Krishna and Christ: In the light of Some of the Fundamental Concepts and Themes of the Bhagavad Gita and the New Testament (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakashan, 1988), pp. 236-7.

18. J. Neuner and J. Dupuis, eds. The Christian Faith, pp. 437.

19. S.J. Samartha, "The Lordship of Christ and religious pluralism" in Christ’s Lordship and Religious Pluralism (New York: Orbis Book, 1980), pp. 19-36. See also "the Kingdom of God in a religiously plural world" in Ecumenical Review, WCC. vol. 32, no. 2, 1980 and "Indian realities and the wholeness of Christ" in Missiology, vol. X, no. 3 July, 1982. See also "commitment and tolerance in a pluralistic society" in NCCR. February 1986. For Samartha’s Earlier Position on Pluralism. see "Unbound Christ: Toward a Christology in India Today" in Asian Christian Theology: Emerging Themes, ed. Douglas J. Elwood (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1980). pp. 145-160.

20. Ibid. p. 23.

21. Ibid.

22. Samartha’s doctoral work was on the great Hindu philosopher. Radhakrishnan. S. 3. Samartha. "The Cross and the Rainbow: Christ in a Multi-religious Culture" in Christian Response to the Multiform Faith in India in India (Bangalore: UTC), p. 30.

23. Christian Response to the Multiform Faith in India in India p. 37.

24. John 3:16:2 Corinthians 5:19

25. Indian Christian Theology, pp. 144-164,

26. Al-Kindi ‘s Metaphysics - A Translation of Ya ‘qub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi’s Treatise ‘On First Phylosophy’ (fi al-falsafa al-‘ula). Introduction and comments by A. L. Ivry, (Albany: State University of New York Press. 1974).

27. Al-Farabi, The Existence and Definition of Philosophy, trans. D. M. Dunlop, repr. Iraq vol. XIII, part 2, (British School of Archaeology in Iraq. 1951).

28. Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition: Introduction to Reading Avicenna’s Philosophical Works, Dimitri Gutas. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988).

29. Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics. A Translation with Introduction of Ibn Rushd’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Book lam, Charles Genequand, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1984). See translated text in pp. 59-210.

30. Al-Ghazzali’s Mishkat al-Anwar, [The Niche for Lights], trans. H. T. Gairdner, (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1924). The Arabic source has also been consulted, mishkat al-anwar (Cairo: 1383/1964), pp. 41-90 [henceforth mishkat].

31. Ibn ‘Arabi’s Theory of the Perfect Man and its Place in the History of Islamic Thought (Tokyo: Institute for the study of languages and cultures of Asia and Africa, 1987).

32. Mishkat, pp. 61-62.

33. Ibn ‘Arabi, Futuhat al-Makkiya, (Cairo: 1274H) [henceforth futuhat], II., p. 426.

34. SB may be understood in three senses explained by M. Sells. SB is ‘Being’ beyond human language thus necessitating silence, or ‘Being’ in Itself as opposed to It being in creatures or as ineffable being causing an un-resolvable dilemma of transcendence. That is, though it is beyond names, in order to say that It is beyond names, It must be given a name.

35. Michael Sells, Mystical Language of Unsaying, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994).

36. The term mahada means to be sincere or to manifest purity of intention; the term mahuda means to be of pure descent or to be pure. The term ‘sheer’ is used to refer to the quality of something it describes. Thus for instance, al-wujud al-mahd is pure, simple and unmixed being.

37. Ontology in philosophy is "the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of Being." In Logic it indicates "a set of entities presupposed by a theory." See Collins English Dictionary, ed. P. Hanks (London/Glasgow: Collins, 1979). The possible things are those that exist as being’s knowledge of them in an undifferentiated form.

38. futuhat II, p. 426. See Sura 2:30-39. Sura 15:29.

39. See for details David Emmanuel Singh’s Foreword to Olaf Schumann’s Jesus the Messiah in Islam forthcoming (Delhi: HMI/ISPCK).

40. Trans. Arthur Jeffrey, studia Islamica (Leiden), 10, 1959, pp. 43-77; 11, 1959, pp. 113-160 [reprinted Lahore: Aziz Publishers, 1980] [henceforth S.].

41. Ibn ‘Arabi, shajarat al-kawn (Cairo: al-Halaby and Sons, 1968/1388) [Henceforth cited as SK], see unpublished translation by David Emmanuel Singh, HMI Library, Hyderabad, India.

42. See S. 44&52. Jeffrey has attributed the motive for the veneration of the prophet "to interpret the significance of their prophet as unique not only in his own community but also in cosmic history." See Ibid. p.45 and 46.

43. See T. Andrae’s Dei person muhammeds in lehre und glauben seiner gemeinde, (Stockholm: 1918) for more details. See also A. 3. Wensinck, The Muslim Creed. Its Genesis and Historical Development, (Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press, 1932). (Henceforth cited as Muslim Creed). Art. 8 pronounces equality of apostleship in general and prohibit the exalting of any one apostle over the other. (Ibid. p. 114. Cf. FA II art. I). Despite this the sects developed their own distinctive preferences, until by the 5th century A. H. when the majority of the Muslims seem to have agreed on Muhammad’s priority over the others. The most prominent evidence for this general consensus is in the doxological statement or the shahadah. (Ibid. See its form being followed by FA II; see arts. 2-7 and 8-10).

44. Muslim Creed

45. Sarah Stroumsa, Freethinkers of Medieval Islam: Ibn al-Rawandi, Abu Bakr al-Razi and their impact on Islamic thought, (Leiden: E. 3. Brill, 1999).

46. The notion of the heart plays an important part in the history of the evolution of the concept of mystic union. The idea that the science of the heart ( ‘ilm al-qulub) produces in the soul, knowledge (ma ‘arifa), which is dynamic [in that it involves the growth of knowledge in a ‘journey’ of the heart to stages (maqamat) and states (ahwal), finally meeting the Truth (al-haqq)] and real [a point rejected by Mu ‘atazilites who presumed a theoretical psychology]. See "tasawwuf" in the shorter ER, p. 581.

47. While Ibn ‘Arabi appears to democratize religious knowledge by identifying humanity as a whole as the site of perfect knowledge, the umma is especially chosen, and within the umma a select few as the perfect earthly example of the archetypal perfect man. The evidence of his claims about himself and his theory of ‘sainthood’ (walaya) [see G T Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the fullness of time: Ibn al-’Arabi’s book of the Fabulous Gryphon, (Leiden: Brill, 1999). [‘anqa’ mughrib (Cairo: 1954)]

48. See The History of al-Tabari. vol. III, "The Children of Israel," trans. W. M. Brinner, (New York: State University of New York Press, 1991), pp. 1-18, contains the Tale of al-Khidr, the saint and his relation with Moses, the prophet. AI-Khidr oral-Khadir means ‘The Green man’ or ‘the Green’. In the Islamic folklore and also in al-Tabari’s account there is a connection between him and Moses. The idea is based on Surah 18:61-83. In the Qur’an he is called ‘one of Our worshippers, servants’. The sources of the folk-lore and the basis of al-Tabari ‘s account is perhaps to be found in the epic of Gilgamesh, the Alexander Romance and Jewish legend of Elijah. See for further details, n. 1, p. 1 in al-Tabari. For details on the epic of Gilgamesh see-The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian, Tr and Introd. by A George, (London: The Penguin Press, 1999), pp. 1-100. The story of Moses and al-Khidr parallel with Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s counterpart in many respects - see especially pp. 12-21 [competition, conflict and reconciliation-Enkidu accepting Gilgamesh’s supremacy]; pp. 22-29 [expeditions to the forest of Cedar]; pp. 30-38 the dreams]; Pp. 70-100 [wanderings of Gilgamesh, reaching the edge of the world].

49. The Qur’anic reference in Sura 18:65 is as follows: "Then found they one of Our slaves, unto whom We had given mercy from Us. and had taught him knowledge from Our presence." It is this knowledge, which Moses in the Qur’anic account requests the mysterious teacher to teach him. See verse 66.

50. Sahih al-bukhari trans. Muhammad Muhasin Khan (Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1984), vol. 4, pp. 402 ff. Text 613.

51. See also Imaginary Muslims, chapters 1-40, pp. 59 if.

52. See also futuhat, III: 70.

53. The History of al-Tabari III. pp. 1-18.

54. E W Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1968) p. 755.


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