Mishkat al-anwar (Niche of Lights): We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, jagbir singh
>"In his ecstasy, al-Hallaj had cried aloud: "I am the Truth!"
> A few months ago i asked my ten-year-old daughter Lalita what that
> immensely brilliant Light above the Adi Shakti in her Sahasrara
> is. She replied "God!"
> i remained silent for a long time to absorb the immensity of that
> single word answer.
According to the Gospels, Jesus had made the same claim, when he had
said that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Koran
repeatedly condemned the Christian belief in God's Incarnation in
Christ as blasphemous, so it was not surprising that Muslims were
horrified by al-Hallaj's ecstatic cry. Al-Haqq (the Truth) was
one of the names of God, and it was idolatry for any mere mortal to
claim this title for himself. Al-Hallaj had been expressing his
sense of a union with God that was so close that it felt like
identity. As he said in one of his poems:
I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I:
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me, thou seest Him, and if thou seest Him, thou seest
It was a daring expression of that annihilation of self and union
with God that his master al-Junayd had called fina. Al-Hallaj
refused to recant when accused of blasphemy and died a saintly
Al-Hallaj's cry anaal-Haqq: "I am the Truth!" shows that God of
the mystics is not an objective reality but profoundly subjective.
Later al-Ghazzali argued that he had not been blasphemous but only
unwise in proclaiming an esoteric truth that could be misleading to
the uninitiated. Because there is no reality but al-Lah as
Shahadah maintains all men are essentially divine. The Koran
taught that God had created Adam in his own image so that he could
contemplate himself as in a mirror. That is why he ordered the
angels to bow down and worship the first man. The mistake of the
Christians had been to assume that one man had contained the whole
incarnation of the divine, Sufis would argue. A mystic who had
regained his original vision of God had rediscovered the divine
image within himself, as it had happened on the day of creation....
The story of al-Hallaj shows the deep antagonism that can exist
between the mystic and the religious establishment who have
different notions of God and revelation. For the mystic the
revelation is an event that happens within his own soul, while for
the more conventional people like some of the elema it is an event
that is firmly fixed in the past."
Karen Armstrong, A History of God,
Ballantine Books, 1993, p. 228-29.
"The Mishkat al-Anwar, an examination of the Light-Verse in the
Koran and the symbolism of the Veils-Tradition, was written in the
eleventh century by al-Ghazzali, a man of formidable intellect
working in the Muslim tradition, who understood that spiritual
realization entailed making a jump from the limitations of the mind
and sensory experience. Abdullah discusses the inner teaching of the
Mishkat al-Anwar, explaining truths which are as relevant to twenty-
first century man as to seekers a thousand years ago."
The Glimpse: The inner teaching of Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali's
Mishkat al-Anwar (The Niche for Lights);
"The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar) is an accessible and
richly rewarding text by one of the most fascinating and important
thinkers in the history of Islam.
Born in the eastern Iranian city of Tus in 450 A.H. (1058 C.E.), Abu
Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali also died there, relatively young, in 505
A.H. (1111 C.E.). Between those two dates, however, he established
himself as a pivotal figure throughout the Islamic world. By his
early thirties he was a pre-eminent legal scholar and teacher in
Baghdad. But then, overcome by skepticism and finding no other
satisfactory way to combat his doubts, he abandoned his academic
position to devote himself to reattaining religious certainty
through the practice of Sufi mysticism. By his own account, he
succeeded. After somewhat more than a decade of travel and ascetic
contemplation, and at the instance of the sultan at that time, he
emerged again into public life and teaching during his final years.
In The Niche of Lights, al-Ghazali maintains that one who truly
desires to understand the relationship between God and the world
must recognize not only His distance and absolute transcendence, as
emphasized in Islamic theology and jurisprudence, but also His
proximity to His creation--His inherent presence. The "symbolism" of
the Qur'an, suggests al-Ghazali, should not be thought of primarily
as literary imagery, as mere similes and metaphors. On the contrary,
God employs the language that He does in order to clarify the actual
nature of reality. An understanding of the structure of the cosmos
and of the human soul depends upon how accurately one perceives that
Middle Eastern Text Initiative
METI Review of The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar), by al-
Ghazali, a parallel English-Arabic text translated, introduced, and
annotated by David Buchman
Biography of Translator
David Buchman received his Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from
the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also
earned his master's degree. For his dissertation he completed two
years of field research on the beliefs and practices of a Sufi order
in Yemen. As a Stony Brook undergraduate, he majored in religious
studies with an emphasis on Islam. He has traveled throughout the
Middle East pursuing the study of Arabic, Islam, and the status of
contemporary Sufism. He is currently an assistant professor of
anthropology and Middle East studies at Hanover College in Indiana.
"Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali's philosophical explorations
covered nearly the entire spectrum of twelfth-century beliefs.
Beginning his career as a skeptic, he ended it as a scholar of
mysticism and orthodoxy. The Niche of Lights, written near the end
of his illustrious career, advances the philosophically important
idea that reason can serve as a connection between the devout and
God. Al-Ghazali argues that abstracting God from the world, as he
believed theologians did, was not sufficient for understanding.
Exploring the boundary between philosophy and theology, The Niche of
Lights seeks to understand the role of reality in the perception of
Amazon.com Book Review
"Friday prayer leaders affirm from mosque pulpits around the
world belief in divine decree, be it good or evil. They warn their
faithful listeners with this hadith: `The most evil of things are
novelties; for every novelty is an innovation. Every innovation is
an error, and every error leads to the Fire.'
While Christians considered theology `the queen of the
sciences', Muslims came to consider it the work of Satan. This is
because theology has confused the rank and file of Muslims. It has
discouraged any kind of innovative thinking. It has paralyzed the
intellectuals, preoccupying them with unsolvable questions."
Mahmoud M. Ayoub
World Religions: The Islamic Tradition
"Ibn al-Arabi did not believe that the God he knew had an
objective existence. Even though he was a skilled metaphysician, he
did not believe that God's existence could be proved by logic. He
liked to call himself a disciple of Khidr, a name given to the
mysterious figure who appears in the Koran as the spiritual director
of Moses, who brought the external Law to the Israelites. God has
given Khidr a special knowledge of himself, so Moses begs him for
instruction, but Khidr tells him that he will not be able to put up
with this, since it lies outside his own religious experience. It is
no good trying to understand religious "information" that we have
not experienced ourselves. The name Khidr seems to have meant "the
Green One," indicating that his wisdom was ever fresh and eternally
renewable. Even a prophet of Moses' stature cannot necessarily
comprehend esoteric forms of religion, for, in the Koran, he finds
that indeed he cannot put up with Khidr's method of instruction.
The meaning of this strange episode seems to suggest that the
external trappings of a religion do not always correspond to its
spiritual or mystical element. People, such as the ulema, might be
unable to understand the Islam of a Sufi like Ibn al-Arabi. Muslim
tradition makes Khidr the master of all who seek a mystic truth,
which is inherently superior to and quite different from the God
which is the same as everybody else's but to a God who is in the
deepest sense of the word subjective."
Karen Armstrong, A History of God