Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

The Macrocosm

As Man is created in the image of God, so the universe is created in the image of Man 5, who is its spirit and life 6. In describing its creation Jílí combines mystical ideas with an old cosmological myth, in the following manner 7:

Before the creation God was in Himself, and the objects of existence were absorbed (mustahlik) in Him so that He was not manifested in any thing. This is the state of "being a hidden treasure 8" or, as the Prophet expressed it, "the dark mist above which is a void and below which is a void 9," because the Idea of Ideas 1 is beyond all relations. The Idea of Ideas is called in another Tradition "the White Chrysolite 2, in which God was before He created the creatures." When God willed to bring the world into existence, He looked on the Idea of Ideas (or the White Chrysolite) with the look of Perfection, whereupon it dissolved and became a water; for nothing in existence, not even the Idea of Ideas, which is the source of all existence, can bear the perfect manifestation of God. Then God looked on it with the look of Grandeur, and it surged in waves, like a sea tossed by the winds, and its grosser elements were spread out in layers like foam, and from that mass God created the seven earths with their inhabitants. The subtle elements of the water ascended, like vapour from the sea, and from them God created the seven heavens with the angels of each heaven. Then God made of the water seven seas which encompass the world. This is how the whole of existence originated.

Jílí surveys the celestial, terrestrial and aqueous universe at considerable length 3, but I will not attempt to give more than an outline of his map. He takes first the seven heavens, which rise in concentric and gradually widening circles above the spheres of earth, water, air, and fire. Mystics, he remarks,. have seen them and can interpret them to sublunary men.

1. The Heaven of the Moon.
This is not the earth-born vapour which we call the sky, but is invisible on account of its farness and subtlety. God created it from the nature of the Spirit (al-Rú?) 4, that it might have the same relation to the earth as the spirit has to the body; and He made it the dwelling-place of Adam 5. Its colour is whiter than silver.

2. The Heaven of Mercury.
God created it from the nature of reflection (fikr) and placed in it all the angels who help craftsmen. Its colour is grey.

3. The Heaven of Venus.
It is created from the nature of phantasy (khayál) and is the locality of the World of Similitudes (‘álamu ’l-mithrál). Its colour is yellow. Jílí describes the various tasks assigned to the angels whom he saw in this heaven, where he also met the Prophet Joseph 1.

4. The Heaven of the Sun.
It is created from the light of the heart (qalb). The Sun in his heaven is like the heart in man—a mirror of Deity: while the heart displays the sublime degrees of existence connoted by the name Allah, the Sun is the source and principle of the elemental world. Idrís, Jesus, Solomon, David, and most of the prophets dwell in the heaven of the Sun; its ruling angel is Isráfíl.

5. The Heaven of Mars.
Azrael, the Angel of Death, presides over this blood-red heaven, which is created from the light of judgment (wahm).

6. The Heaven of Jupiter.
Its colour is blue. God created it from the light of meditation (himma). The angels of the Sixth Heaven, of whom Michael is the chief, are angels of mercy and blessing. Some have the shapes of animals and birds and men; others appear as substances and accidents which bring health to the sick or as solids and liquids which supply created beings with food and drink; others are formed half of fire and half of ice.

Here Jílí beheld Moses, "drunken with the wine of the revelation of Lordship," who explained to him the meaning of "Thou shalt not see Me" (Kor. 7, 139).

7. The Heaven of Saturn.
The Seventh Heaven was the first to be created. It was created from the light of the First Intelligence, and its colour is black. Between it and the Starless Heaven (al falaku ’l-a?las) there are three heavens which have only a logical, not an actual, existence: the Heaven of Matter (falaku ’l-hayúlá), which is the highest of the three; the Heaven of Atoms (falaku ’l-habá) 2; and the Heaven of the Elements (falaku ’l-‘aná?ir); some philosophers add a fourth, viz., the Heaven of Natural Properties (falaku ’l-tabá’i‘).

The author proceeds to describe the seven limbos of the Earth 1.

1. The Earth of Souls (ar?u ’l-nufús).
God created it whiter than milk and sweeter than musk, but when Adam walked on it after the Fall it became dust-coloured, except one region in the North, never reached by any sinner, which is ruled by al-Kha?ir and inhabited by the Men of the Unseen World (rijálu ’l-ghayb) 2.

2. The Earth of Devotions (ar?u ’l-‘ibádát).
In colour it resembles an emerald. Its inhabitants are those of the Jinn (genies) who believe in God: their night is our day, and their day our night. After the sun sets in our earth, they appear on it and fall in love with the children of men. Most of these spirits envy the disciples of the Mystic Way, and taking them unawares bring them to ruin. Jílí affirms that he had seen some ?úfís who were in bondage to them and were made so deaf and blind that they could neither hear nor understand the Word of God, unless the reciter were one of the Jinn.

3. The Earth of Nature (ar?u ’l-?ab‘).
Its colour is saffron-yellow. The unbelieving Jinn who inhabit it appear in human shape amongst mankind and cause them to neglect the worship of God.

4. The Earth of Lust (ar?u ’l-shahwa).
Its colour is blood-red. It is inhabited by different sorts of devils who are the offspring of the soul of Iblís.

5. The Earth of Exorbitance (ar?u ’l-?ughyán).
Its colour is indigo blue. ‘Afríts and potent demons dwell in it, who busy themselves with seducing men to commit great sins.

6. The Earth of Impiety (ar?u ’l-il?ád).
Its colour is black as night. It is the abode of the márids (the most evil and rebellious of the Jinn) 3.

7. The Earth of Misery (ar?u ’l-shaqáwa).
It is the floor of Gehenna (Jahannum) and is inhabited by enormous snakes and scorpions, which God placed there in order that it might be a pattern of the torments of Hell to the people of this world 1.

Concerning the Seven Seas, which were originally two—one of salt and the other of fresh water—Jílí has much to say 2, but his description of them is somewhat confused and we must now pass on to matters of greater interest.

121:5 Mohammed, as the Logos, is the spiritual essence of Adam and of all things.

121:6 Cf. K II. 79, 6 foll. "God caused Adam to dwell in the heaven of this world, because Adam is the world-spirit (rú?u ’l-‘álam): through him God beheld the existent things and had mercy on them and made them live by the life of Adam in them. The world will not cease to be living so long as humankind continues there. When humankind departs, the world will perish and collapse, as the body of an animal perishes when the spirit leaves it."

121:7 K II. 77, 10 foll. Cf. Nyberg, Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-‘Arabi, Introd., p. 146 foll.

121:8 According to the ?adíth, "I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known, therefore I created the creatures in order that I might be known."

121:9 See p. 94 fol.

122:1 ?aqíqatu ’l-haqá’iq, i.e., the whole content of God's knowledge, the Divine consciousness, the First Intelligence, the Logos. It is identical with the ?aqíqatu ’l-Mu?ammadiyya. Cf. Nyberg, op. cit., Introd., p. 33 foll. and 50.

122:2 al-Yáqútatu ’l-bay?á.

122:3 K II. 78, 5-98, 22.

122:4 See p. 108 foll.

122:5 Cf. p. 121, note 6.

123:1 K II. 83, 22 foll.

123:2 The universe, being in space, requires a locus (ma?all). This locus is al-habá. It is "logical" (?ukmí), since it cannot be homogeneous with the universe; otherwise it would need a locus for itself. Mystics call it " the First Intelligence" and "the Spirit of Mohammed" (M 35 a). Cf. Nyberg, op. cit., Introd., p. 157.

124:1 K II. 89, 18 foll.

124:2 He says that it is near to the land of Bulghár and that in winter they are not obliged to perform the evening-prayer, because the dawn rises before sunset.

124:3 Jílí inserts here a short passage in which he distinguishes four species of Jinn according as their nature is elemental, fiery, airy, or earthly. The "elementals" are akin to the angels and never go outside of the spiritual world.

125:1 Similarly, God set over the Heaven of the Stars a prince (?ághiya) like the people of Paradise to serve as a pattern of the joys of Paradise. Moreover, the images stored in the left side of the seat of khayál (see p. 91) in the human brain are a copy of the Earth of Misery, while those in the right side are a copy of the houris and other Paradisal pleasures. Otherwise, Jílí argues, the intellect could not know Paradise and Hell and would not be obliged to believe in them (K II. 92, 22 foll.).

125:2 K II. 93, 9 foll.



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