Tuesday, December 19, 2006



All the Names and Attributes of God fall under either one, or the other, of two broad qualitative ways of referring to Divine manifestation. More specifically, Divine manifestations are either qualities of: on the one hand, beauty, ease, mercy, forgiveness, love, joy, etc.; or, on the other hand, majesty, transcendence, retribution, power, independence, incomparability, etc.

The term "jamal" gives collective reference to the Divine qualities of beauty, as well as to other qualities which are, in a sense, grouped with beauty. Generally speaking, however, all of these qualities are subsumed under the rubric of beauty. Consequently, whenever Divine qualities of jamal or beauty are being mentioned, tacit reference also is being made to all qualities which are grouped or associated with beauty.

The series of qualities cited above in relation to beauty (e.g., ease, intimacy, mercy, and so on) is meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.Similarly, the term "jalal" encompasses all the Divine qualities associated with majesty. Moreover, once again, as was the case with the designation of jamal, the list of qualities associated with majesty in the foregoing (e.g. transcendence, retribution, independence and so on) are intended more as sort of guiding hints rather than a definitive account.

The Divine qualities of jamal (beauty) and jalal (majesty) describe different aspects of the way God relates to human beings and creation. In fact, the fabric of our lives is woven from "fibers" drawn from both categories of quality in accordance with the design of Divine will.

Most of us tend to find the qualities of jamal or beauty more agreeable than the qualities of jalal. In other words, as far as our relationship with God is concerned, we, for example, would prefer: ease rather than trials; forgiveness rather than retribution; joy rather than sadness; intimacy rather than "distance", and so on.

Yet, according to practitioners of the Sufi path, spiritual progress requires a mixture of both kinds of relationship. Indeed, one might liken the 'roles' of jamal and jalal in the Divine fashioning of human spirituality to a sort of forging process.For instance, through experiencing God's care, kindness, grace, compassion, forbearance, support and so on, our hearts begin to soften in the warmth of the fires of love which God has kindled in our lives. God, then, sends trials, challenges, and hardships into our lives that become the hammer, by which, and anvil, on which, our softened, melted hearts are pounded to give this spiritual instrument strength and shape. After this, our hearts are plunged into the cooling waters of Divine mercy. We are removed by God from the difficulties through which we were being tested and fashioned.Once again, God casts us into the intense heat of Divine love through manifold favors and blessings. Our hearts respond and begin to melt.

Nevertheless, due to arrogance and pride, we may soon find ourselves on the anvil of ingratitude and forgetfulness. We are pounded about by the hammer of humiliation and chastisement. The desire to repent arises in us. We cry out for the soothing waters of Divine forgiveness. God answers our plea.

Eventually, if God wishes, the spiritual forging process is completed. Our spiritual potential has been realized by the way in which God has related to us through various combinations and sequences of Divine qualities of jamal and jalal.

These qualities do not necessarily have to alternate in order to achieve the Divine purpose with respect to helping us to realize our spiritual potential. Sometimes, God relates to us through 'compassionate severity', in which qualities of jamal are being manifested more intensely than are qualities of jalal. On other occasions, God may relate to us through 'severe compassion', as qualities of majesty have ascendancy over qualities of beauty, although the latter qualities are active and present in various ways and degrees.

God brings into our lives unique combinations of beauty and majesty in order to provide each of us with the best opportunities for, if God wishes, making spiritual progress and realizing our essential capacity and identity. Whether or not we are inclined to try to take advantage of these opportunities is up to us.

Whatever the character of the events coming into our lives, whatever ratio of jamal and jalal to which these events give expression, Sufi masters encourage us to remember that the events (both internal and external) of our lives are the media through which God is communicating with us. Moreover, this communication is not arbitrary, whimsical or a game.

According to practitioners of the Sufi path, we will not realize our true identity and essential capacity until we have certain kinds of experience involving the majestic, rigorous and severe dimensions of Divinity. Experiencing only qualities of beauty will retard our spiritual development.Consequently, Sufi masters indicate we should not look at the events of our lives as being either "good" or "bad". They all are manifestations of Divine relationship which are intended to help us spiritually.

We must come to recognize the presence of Divinity in our lives irrespective of the "disguise" through which Divinity appears. These manifestations may be: pleasant and/or painful; compassionate and/or severe; forgiving and/or exacting; expanding and/or contracting; imminent and/or transcendent; beautiful and/or terrible; life-giving and/or life-taking, and so on.

The ups and downs of life mirror the presence of jamal and jalal in our lives. These experiences are God's way of introducing us to the many dimensions of ourselves and of Divinity. Through these experiences we learn about various facets and stages of our relationship with Divinity. Through these events God helps us learn, among other things, about: wisdom, justice, love, separation, ignorance, repentance, knowledge, light, doubt, darkness, guidance, forgiveness, jealousy, friendship, misguidance, enmity, courage, truth, sacrifice, worship, reality, creation, and identity.

According to Sufi masters, human beings alone, in all of creation, have been given the capacity to reflectively manifest all of the Names and Attributes of God. This means we have the potential, each according to her or his capacity, to reflect an array of Divine qualities of jamal and jalal.

According to the Sufi masters, realizing the purpose of life involves coming to terms with the reality and significance of Divine qualities of jamal and jalal in our daily lives. In other words, a spiritually successful life entails learning how to consciously utilize the qualities of jamal and jalal, to which our lives give expression, for the purposes of spiritual development and maturation. In addition, the practitioners of the Sufi path contend we attain to proper worship of God only as we come to experientially recognize, embrace and cherish the Divine qualities of jamal and jalal present in the events of our lives as manifestations of one Divinity. Moreover, Sufi masters indicate we only will experience the Many as the One and the One as the Many when we have fully realized our own essential capacity for reflecting Divine qualities of jamal and jalal.


Anonymous said...

Friend, You wrote 'compassionate severity' reminds me of the wonderful American innovation called 'tough love'. Your piece is a timely reminder and balm for the ups and downs especially in the urban jungle. Ma-as-Salaam

child of iris said...

"The Divine qualities of jamal (beauty) and jalal (majesty) describe different aspects of the way God relates to human beings and creation."

I was so confused lately about my spirituality and was so desperate and thirsty for food for soul. This essay cleared much of my confusion by merely reminding me to remember.

Ma assalam!

Anab Whitehouse said...

Dear Manijhé,

I'm happy that, by the grace of Allah, the essay resonated with your heart. We all need nutrients of remembrance for our spiritual sustenance.


Sadiq said...

Beautiful mashallah!

Anonymous said...

I still do not understand the idea that all is One Reality.

Ibn Arabi seems to be saying everyone worships The One, in some way, even unbelivers. So if this is true what is the purpose of the Shariah and Islam?

Anonymous said...

"I still do not understand the idea that all is One Reality."

The Essential Attributes are neither and yrt they must be used to speak of Him. When Fully Immersed in His Presence there is nothing else. Therein lies the Onness of Being.