Monday, March 24, 2008

the hierarchical structure of the Islamic-2

When one thinks of the term “Islam” as used in the English
language to denote the whole tradition, one must think
not only of islām , but also of īmān and i .h sān . The teachings
of Islam have levels of meaning, and the religion consists of
a hierarchy that, destined to become the religion of a large
portion of humanity, had to accommodate the spiritual and
intellectual needs of the simplest peasant and the most astute
philosopher, the warrior and the lover, the jurist and the
mystic. Islam achieved this goal by making the teachings of
religion accessible on various levels from the most outward
to the most inward. But it preserved unity by insisting that
all of the members of its community share in the Sacred
Law and the central doctrine of al-taw .h īd summarized in
“ Lā ilāha illa’Llāh .” Their degree of penetration into the
meaning of Unity depended and continues to depend on the
intensity of their faith and the beauty of their soul. But in
submission to the One (al-islām) , all Muslims stand in the same manner
before God in a single community governed by the bonds of
brotherhood and sisterhood as well as amity. Paradoxically,
the multiple inner dimensions of the religion do not destroy
this unity, but in fact only strengthen it, because these inner
and higher modes of participation in the religion bring worshipers
ever closer to the One. Unity is thereby strengthened,
even in the more outward aspects of human life that all Muslims
share, whatever their degree of participation might be
in the understanding and practice of Islam.

the hierarchical structure of the Islamic-1

Islām, Īmān, I . hsān
To understand the hierarchical structure of the Islamic
tradition better, we turn to the terms islām, īmān , and i .h sān ,
all of which are used in the text of the Quran and the .H adīth .
The fi rst means “surrender,” the second, “faith,” and the
third, “virtue” or “beauty.” All those who accept the Quranic
revelation and surrender themselves to God are muslim; that
is, they possess islām . Those who with intense faith in God
and the hereafter are often referred to in the Quran as
mu’min , that is, persons possessing faith, or īmān . Not every
muslim is mu’min , and to this day in the Islamic world this
distinction is kept clearly in mind. Those whom the Quran
calls mu .h sin are those who possess i .h sān , which, as mentioned
already, implies a high level of spiritual perfection,
the attainment of which allows human beings to live constantly
with the awareness of being in God’s presence; i .h sān is none other than that spiritual
teaching that has been preserved, transmitted, and promulgated
in Sufi sm.
A famous .h adīth known as the .h adīth of Gabriel gives a
defi nition of all these terms. The .h adīth , as transmitted by
‘Umar, is as follows:
One day when we were sitting with the Messenger of God
there came unto us a man whose clothes were of exceeding
whiteness and whose hair was of exceeding blackness;
nor were there any signs of travel upon him, although
none of us knew him. He sat down knee unto knee opposite
the Prophet, upon whose thighs he placed the palms
of his hands saying: “O Mu .h ammad, tell me what is the
surrender (islām).” The Messenger of God answered him
saying: “The surrender is to testify that there is no god but
God and that Mu .h ammad is God’s Messenger, to perform
the prayer, bestow the alms, fast Rama .d ān and make, if
thou canst, the pilgrimage to the Holy House.” He said:
“Thou hast spoken truly,” and we were amazed that, having
questioned him, he should corroborate him. Then he
said: “Tell me what is faith (īmān).” He answered: “To
believe in God and His Angels and His Books and His
Messengers and the Last Day, and to believe that no good
or evil cometh but by His Providence.” “Thou hast spoken
truly,” he said, and then: “Tell me what is excellence
(ih. sān).” H e answered: “To worship God as if thou sawest
Him, for if thou seest Him not, yet seeth He thee.” “Thou
hast spoken truly,” he said, and then: “Tell me of the
Hour.” He answered: “The questioned thereof knoweth
no better than the questioner.” He said: “Then tell me of
its signs.” He answered: “That the slave-girl shall give
birth to her mistress; and that those who were but barefoot
naked needy herdsmen shall build buildings ever higher
and higher.” Then the stranger went away, and I stayed a
while after he had gone; and the Prophet said to me: “O
‘Umar, knowest thou the questioner, who he was?” I said:
“God and His Messenger know best.” He said: “It was
Gabriel. He came unto you to teach you your religion .” 9

Islamic philosophical

Islam is based on the Absolute, Allah, and not on the
messenger. Yet the love of the Prophet lies at the heart of
Islamic piety, for human beings can love God only if God
loves them, and God loves only the person who loves His
Prophet. The Quran itself orders human beings to venerate
the Prophet. In Muslim eyes, the love and respect for the Prophet
are inseparable from the love for the Word of God, for the
Quran, and of course ultimately for God Himself. There is
something of the soul of the Prophet present in the Quran,
and in a famous saying uttered before his death, the Prophet
asserted that he was leaving two precious heritages behind
for his community, the Quran and his family, both of which
represent his continued presence in the Islamic community
In Sufism and many schools of Islamic philosophical
thought, the inner reality of the Prophet, the “Muh.ammadan
Reality” (al- .H aqīqat al-mu .h ammadiyyah) , is identifi ed with
the Logos, God’s fi rst creation, which is the ontological principle
of creation as well as the archetype of all prophecy.
Sufi s assert that the inner reality of the Prophet was the fi rst
link in the prophetic chain and that his outward and historical reality
came at the end of the prophetic cycle to bring it to a
close. It was in reference to this inner reality that the Prophet
asserted, “I was a prophet when Adam was between water
and clay.”

the quran -4

The text of the Quran consists of 114 chapters (sūrahs)
divided into the Meccan and the Medinan, that is, those
revealed to the Prophet when he was in Mecca and those
after he migrated to Medina. The very fi rst verses revealed
are those of the chapter entitled “Bloodclot” (al-‘Alaq) ,
which open chapter 96 of the Quran .