The Beauty and the Sublimity, Winter and Summer

The following is a single discourse from a collection of discourses by the seventeenth century Ottoman Sufi mystic and scholar Ismāʿīl Ḥaḳḳī, featured previously on this blog here: Sufi Concision. It is a rather dense little piece, despite only being a couple paragraphs. I will keep my explication short, in part because I am reluctant to put words in the author’s mouth, and do not fully understand the lineaments and depths of his particularly cosmology and symbolic apparatus.

The central motif of this discourse is the contrast between manifestations of God’s beauty (al-jamāl) and His sublimity (aljalāl), a word that might also be translated as ‘majesty’ or ‘magnificence.’ The concept of a sort of dualism in God’s nature or manifestation of Himself had existed for some time in Sufi thought before Ibn ‘Arabi developed the idea into the form upon which our author here is drawing. The most explicit development of Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought on the beauty and the sublimity can be found in, not surprisingly, a short treatise titled Kitāb alJalāl wal-Jamāl, available in an English translation from the Ibn ‘Arabi Society. Therein Ibn ‘Arabi complicates previous ideas of God’s manifestations of beauty and majesty, arguing against a rather simplistic interpretation of those attributes and the ways in which they might be experienced by humans. Ismāʿīl Ḥaḳḳī picks up this ‘complication’ of the attributes, and extends Ibn ‘Arabi’s original conception into the cosmological interactions of humans, nature, revelation, and God.

There appeared to me regarding [Muhammad’s] words, Winter is the spoils of the believer, that the most important of affairs for the perfect among the believers is the matter of religion, not the matter of this world. And winter aids in the realization of the latter matter, in that days are shorter and nights longer. For the shortening of nights makes fasting easier, while the lengthening of nights makes standing [in prayer] easier—in variance with summer, as the days are longer and the heat stronger, forbidding the aforementioned benefits. Sleep has the ascendency during summer nights due to their shortness and the languor of bodies [due to summer heat].

So know that summer is the site of the manifestation of God’s Beauty (al-jamāl) in deed in regards to outward form (min ḥaythu al-ṣūrah), however, in it is God’s Sublimity (jalāl) in potency in regards to inner meaning (alma’inā). But when earthquakes, violent storms, lightning strikes, and their like, occur in the summer, and as for winter in general, then it is the opposite: the Sublimity is manifest exteriorly, while the Beauty is manifest interiorly. Therefore, there does not occur in it what occurs in the summer as aforementioned. And in the nature of winter is a advantageous benefit which points to the fact that the perfect believer, whenever trial or trouble befalls him in regards to himself, to his possessions, or to his family, he takes advantage of that situation and recoups benefit. For if under every misfortune is another misfortune, on the contrary, the perfect one is he who finds sweetness in the Sublimity like that which he finds in the Beauty. And if not, then he is incomplete [in his mystical realization], because all that occurs is from God, and what is from God is not bitter to the true enraptured lover of God. It is the custom (sunnah) of God to first instruct someone through the Beauty, and if the person does not thus become aware of Him, He instructs him through the Sublimity. And if he does then become aware of Him, He uproots him—we take refuge in God from that and from all which is merely exterior.

The one who seeks ascension finds it in repentance and in the manifestation of his incapacity, not elsewhere. God possesses people who serve Him in hardship and ease equally—so look into what leads to Him: their perfect knowledge and complete tranquility of soul.

Ismāʿīl Ḥaḳḳī (1063/1652-1137/1725)

Sufi Concision

One of the most prolific Sufi masters and authors to live in the Ottoman Empire was a Turkish mystic and scholar named Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī (1063-1133/1652-1725), who spent his childhood near Edirne, then received his education in Edirne and Istanbul. After several years of traveling to various corners of the empire, he settled down in Bursa, where he lived as a Sufi master and teacher and eventually head of the Jilwatiyya order. Besides his training in the Sufi path, Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī received, and deployed in the course of his career, a broad education, from philosophy and music to Qur’anic exegesis and Persian poetry. He wrote a great deal- some 104 works, a majority in Turkish, though with a sizeable number in Arabic. The excerpt below comes from his primarily Arabic (with a little Persian mixed in) Qur’an tafsīr, the Rūḥ al-bayān, a multi-volume work that stands out as a quite original and often creative endeavor. Philosophy, mysticism, grammatical science, hadith, and many other components all make up this major work, which, so far as I know, has received little notice from Western scholars.

The excerpt below represents an aspect of Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī’s tafsīr that I think might well be unique to him (though of course I could be quite wrong on that, so don’t quote me on this!); if not unique, it still stands out as unusual and rare. After providing a somewhat eclectic but largely ‘exoteric’ interpretation of the first few verse of Sura al-Hūd, Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī presents a lemma-by-lemma ‘mystical’ commentary that is highly abbreviated, similar to the concise, abbreviated ‘exoteric’ commentaries that were especially popular in the Ottoman realms (see Bayḍawī’s relatively short commentary, the Tafsīr Anwār al-Tanzīl wa Asrār al-Ta’wīl, for an example). He titles these sections Stellar Interpretations, a phrase which immediately calls to mind mystical modes of exegesis (see note one below). Whereas most Sufi commentaries dealt with particular verses or blocks of verses, our author works through each lemma and line, integrating the whole of the text into a concise Sufic interpretation. What is the logic of such an approach? Perhaps Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī wishes to demonstrate the complete compatibility of the Qur’anic text with the Sufi path and Sufi doctrine. Against naysayers who might wish to contest the Qur’anic quality of Sufism (and especially the ibn ‘Arabi influenced Sufism someone like Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī espoused), our author presents a lemma-by-lemma reading of the scriptural text that uncovers Sufi belief and practice consistently and clearly, with little metaphysical or rhetorical maneuvering.

Alif-Lam-Ra: A Book whose verses were established, then were set forth in detail, from the Presence, Wise, Knowing. Serve none save God; I am to you from Him a warning, and good news. And you that seek forvgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him, He gives you enjoyable provision to an appointed term. And there comes to every possessor of grace His grace. And if you turn back, then I fear for you the punishment of a great Day. To God you return, and He is over everything powerful.

And in the Stellar Interpretation [1] (al-ta’wīlāt al-najmiyya): Alif-lam-ra: the alif points to God (Allāh), the lam, to Gabriel, and the ra, to the Prophet (al-rasūl). A Book whose verses were established: meaning the Qur’an, a book whose verse are established by wise ordinance, as His words say: He makes you to know the Book and wisdom. So the Book is the Qur’an, and the wisdom is the realities, the meanings, and the mysteries that are incorporated in its verses. Then were set forth in detail: that is, these realities and wisdoms were made evident to the hearts of the gnostics. From the presence of [the] Wise: He deposited in [the Qur’an] the overwhelming wisdom which no one else is capable of depositing in it, and this is a mystery from among the mysteries of the inimitability (i’jāz) of the Qur’an. Knowing: over the instruction of those things from His presence to whomever He wills among His servants, as His words say: Then they found one of Our servants, unto whom We had brought mercy from Us and had taught him knowledge from Our Presence (Q. 18.65). Pointing out that the Qur’an has an exterior which the grammarians (ahl al-lugha) know about, and an interior which only the lords of hearts whom God has graced with knowledge from the Presence know about. And the summit of wisdom and its mystery is that you say: O Muhammad, what relates to you will not perish [?]. Serve none save God: that is, do not serve Satan, the world, the passions, nor what is other than God. I am to you from Him a warning: I warn you against being cut off from God, you that serve, obey, or love other than God; and the punishment of the servant is in Gehenna. And good news: I give you good news of mystical union and the graces of reunion [with God] in the house of magnificence, you that you serve Him and obey Him and love Him.

And the Prophet is specified by the call to God from among the prophets and the messengers, as indicated by His words: O Prophet, We sent you as a witness, a herald, a warning, and a caller to God by His permission (Q. 33.45). And you that seek forgiveness of your Lord: from what causes you to slip during the days of your lives into seeking other than God and the abandonment of seeking Him, and the occurrence of veiling [from God] and the vanities of people’s natural dispositions—for the seeking of of forgiveness is purification for your souls and cleansing for your hearts. Then turn to Him: return by preceding along the practice of wayfaring to God, so that repentance be a ornamentation for you after the purification of seeking forgiveness, per His words: He gives you enjoyable provision: the raising in stations from the low to the high, and from the high to the presence of the Exalted, the Great. To an appointed time: the termination of the stations of wayfaring (sulūk) and the beginning of the degrees of union. And there comes to every possessor of grace: possessor of truthfulness and struggle in the seeking. His grace: in the degrees of union; the witnessings are in accordance with the measure of the struggles. And if you turn back: to turn away from the seeking and the journey to God. Then (fa-): Say: I fear for you punishment of a great Day: the punishment of the Day of the cutting off from God, the Great—He is the greatest of the great, and His punishment is the hardest of strikings. To God you return: voluntarily or with detestation. If voluntarily, He will draw near to you with the utmost of attractions, as He said [in a ḥadīth qudsī: Whoever draws near to Me an inch, I will draw near to him a cubit. If with detestation, you deserve to be in the fire upon your faces. And He is over every thing: in both kindness and victorious might: powerful.

Ismāʿīl Ḥaqqī, Rūḥ al-bayān, Volume 4, 93-94.

[1] Ta’wīlāt is a somewhat ambiguous word: it can mean simply ‘commentary’ or ‘intepretation’; it can mean ‘commentary by personal opinion,’ with a negative sense attached to it; or it can stand for ‘mystical’ interpretation. Here it would seem to entail aspects of all three meanings, though without any negative sense attached to it.

Vice and Virtue

The following translation is another excerpt from the philosophical-mystical Qur’an commentary of ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Kashanī (d. 730/1329), previously discussed here. In this excerpt, which is ostensibly related to a large chunk of verses from Sura al-Nur (Q. 24), most of which have to do with ‘legal’ matters. Our commentator, however, takes these verses as an opportunity to expound upon the nature of vice and virtue and proper moral behavior and nature. In the Western Latin exegetical tradition, similar material might fall under the label of ‘tropological’ exegesis. In the tropological mode, a commetator seeks to locate the moral meaning or message behind a particular passage, usually for the purpose of presenting a lesson or example for good behavior. In this case, al-Kashanī is interested, first of all, in expounding on the ‘ontology’ of good and evil acts, reflective of his general philosophical-mystical purpose. Secondarily, his ontological exposition serves to draw out a moral message and a warning against the cultivation of vice.

Readers familiar with Western Latin moral philosophy and theology from the same period in which al-Kashanī is writing will probably recognize some common themes and concepts. This is, of course, not accidental: al-Kashanī is drawing upon many shared elements, particularly those often labeled ‘neo-Platonic.’ Of course, the paths taken by al-Kashanī on the one hand and Western philosophers and theologians on the other were quite different in many ways, and the systems and final forms which they created and used varied considerably. In al-Kashanī’s case, his philosophical commitments are filtered through and transformed by his engagement with the mystical theology of Ibn ‘Arabi. In this passage, however, the Great Master’s influence is not especially evident; philosophical language and concepts, creatively interpenetrated with the Qur’anic text and concepts, are front and center.

[From] Those who come with a lie to His words, Theirs is forgiveness and noble sustenance: verily, the magnitude of the matter of falsehood, and the harshness of the threat (al-wa’īd) attached to it—in that no other matter of disobedience is so harshly dealt with, and the seriousness of the punishment for it, in that neither adultery nor murder are treated so seriously: this is because of the magnitude of the vileness, and the weight of the disobedience. It is in relation to the potency (al-quwa)[1] that is its origin (maṣdaruhā). And the condition of the vices, in veiling their practitioner, diverts away from the divine presence and the holy lights, and is involvement in physical destruction, a darkened gulf in view of the disharmony with its locus of manifestation. For the more that the potency that is [a vice’s] origin and its initiatory source is exalted, the vice that derives from it is all the worse through opposition. For vice is what stands opposite virtue, and when the virtue is especially exalted, what stands opposite it as vice is especially base. Lying is the vice of the potency of speech, which is the most exalted of human potencies. Adultery is the vice of the desiring potency, murder is the vice of the irascible potency. On account of the exaltation of the first [the potency of speech] over the other two [lying] increases the baseness of its vileness.

And that is because man is man on account of the first [potency of speech], as it raises him to the higher world, and it turns him to the divine side, and is his attainment for mystical knowledge and miraculous wonders, and is his acquisition for good deeds and happiness. He is by it, so if is corrupted by the overcoming of satanic influence upon it, and is veiled from the Light by the overwhelming of darkness, it becomes a great unhappiness, and incurs the punishment of the Fire. For it is the stainer and the total veil: Nay, rather, it stains their hearts, what they have acquired; they will be on that day veiled from their Lord. (Q. 83.14-15) And for this the eternity of the punishment is necessary, and the persistence of the torment is by the corruption of belief apart from corruption of deeds, as God does not forgive that one associate another with Him, though He forgives all other than that to whomever He wills.

As for the other [potencies], as each of them traces back in its external manifestation to the reigning potency of speech, then perhaps [the vice] is effaced by its [the potency’s] reassertion, and it subjects it to itself through the stilling of its agitation and the calming effect of its sovereignty through the overwhelming of the strength of the light. It exercises sovereignty over [the vice] naturally, like the state of the censuring soul during repentance and contrition. Or, perhaps [the vice] persists through obduracy, and the abandonment of seeking forgiveness. In these two states the vices of the two [potencies] do not overcome the station of the mystical secret, nor the locus of [divine] presence, or intimate conversation with the Lord, nor do they overstep the bounds of the heart, nor bring about the veiling of primal human nature from reality, inverting through variance with these, except that you see the satanic temptation towards humanity, making him further from the divine presence than the predatory and the beastly, and further from his own natural capacity. For man, by the rootedness of the vice of the potency of speech becomes satanic; rootedness in the vices of the other two cause him to become animalistic, like a predator or beast—and every creature is morally sounder and closer to joy than Satan.[2] And for this reason God said: Shall I reveal to you upon whom the satans descend? They descend upon every lying, evil one (Q. 26.222).

And He forbids here from following the footsteps of Satan, for verily the perpetration of the like of these vile deeds is only through following after him and obeying him. And [Satan’s] companion is part of his army and his following, but is even baser and lower than him; he is cut off from the grace of God which is the light of right guidance; veiled from His mercy which is the overflowing of perfect grace and happiness. He is accursed in this world and the next, odious towards God and the angels. His limbs bear witness against him; he changes their forms, their outward manifestation is made unseemly by the wickedness of inner essence and soul, entangled in filth. Verily, the like of this wickedness does not originate save from the wicked, as God said: Wicked women belong to wicked men. As for the good who are free of the vices, their originates from them good and virtue—Theirs is forgiveness, through the veiling of their attributes by the divine lights, and noble sustenance, from the mystical meanings and the mystical knowledge found in their hearts.

[1] This word might also be translated as ‘faculty’ or ‘capacity.’

[2] Translating al-shayṭān as ‘Satan’ is problematic, as the term can mean both the individual, singular Satan familiar to Western religious discourse, as well as ‘satans,’ or evil spirits of the sort usually referred to in English as ‘devils’ or ‘demons’ (the latter word being especially apropos, as one often encounters, especially in Sufi writings, the idea of ‘personal’ satans, malevolent daemons as it were). I have tried to preserve the ambiguity by translating al-shayṭān as ‘Satan’ when the singular individual is referred to; ‘satans’ when the evil spirits are meant. See Andrew Rippin, ‘S̲h̲ayṭān.’ Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2012.

Surah al-Kawthar: Sufi Tafsir: ibn ‘Ajiba

The tafsīr of the Moroccan Sufi Ahmad ibn ‘Ajība (b. 1747/8) is the most recent of the commentaries I am examing in this series, and because of that it is a good summation of the many centuries of exegetical tradition that preceded it, both in ‘mainstream’ Sunni tafsir and in Sufi mystical intepretation. At first glance, there is little to distinguish ibn ‘Ajība from his predecesors. He seems to be drawing heavily upon al-Baydawī (or al-Baydawī’s source, al-Zamakhsharī), with some expansions. However, there are some rather significant changes. For instance, we see that al-Sulamī’s story about Muhammad’s discontent has been included as part of the ‘exoteric’ commentary, and has been modified slightly. Ibn ‘Ajība includes brief grammatical explanations, taking care not to overburden the reader; he also includes an occasion of revelation story that we have not come across before, as well as brief speculation on the liturgical proscriptions inherent in this surah. He thus draws upon the wide variety of exegesis that had developed, paring it down and presenting the various elements in rapid succession.

Finally, of most significance is the final paragraph of the commentary, the ‘spiritual allusions.’ Here we see another form of Sufi exegesis, but in a very different order from al-Sulamī’s. Instead of the usual process of dividing the surah into lemmas (individual lines or units) and presenting various exegetical authorities and opinions, line by line, our author interprets the surah through a process of interpolation, flowing from phrase to phrase. He expands the verse using Sufi doctrines and concepts, uniting the scriptural words seamlessly with mystical language and experience.


The Truth [God], His strength is mighty, said: ‘Verily, we gave to you al-kawthar.’ That is: abundance of goodness, the one [Muhammad] whom universal prophethood exalts possesses the good of both worlds, universal headship, and the happiness of this world and the next. [The word al-kawthar is of the form] faw’al from [the word] al-kathira. And it is said: it is a river in the Garden, sweeter than honey, whiter than milk, colder than snow, softer than foam. Its two brims are of pearls and chrysolite, and its [drinking] vessels are of silver, the number of the stars of heaven, and the one who drinks of it will never be thirsty, and the one coming to drink it returns. Two of the Immigrants recited, [they are of] dirty clothes, unkempt hair, those who are not wedded to the graces [of God?], and He does not open to them the gates of intensity [?]- that is: the gates of the kings- due to their weakness. One of them dies, and his necessity stammers inside his chest- if he swore by God, let him fulfill it. [These last couple of sentences remain opaque to me. There seems to be some reference to something which I am missing…]

And ibn ‘Abbās interpreted it as abundance of good, and it was said to him: verily people say: it is a river in Paradise. So he said: The river is part of that good. And it is said: it is abudance of his children and descendents, or the ‘ulamā’ of his community, or the Qur’ān providing the good of this world and the next.

And it is related: That the Prophet, peace and prayer be upon him, said: ‘O Lord, You took Ibrahim as a friend, and Musa as a spokesman- so how am I special?’ So [this verse] descended: ‘Did He not find you an orphan then give [you] shelter?’ But he was not satisfied with that, so there descended: ‘We gave you al-kawthar.’ But he was not satisfied with that, for it was due him lest he be satisfied, for contement from God is deprivation, and reliance upon [one spiritual] state cuts off the highest [spiritual state]. So Jibrīl descended, and said to the Prophet, peace and prayer be upon him: ‘God- blessed and exalted is He- greets you with peace, and says to you: “If I took Ibrahim as a friend, and Musa as spokesman, then I have taken you as a beloved one (habīban), and My counsel and my Strength are for the preference of My beloved over and beyond My friend and My spokesman.”’ So [Muhammad], peace and prayer be upon him, was content.

The [particle] fa’ in His saying ‘So pray (fa-sall) to your Lord and sacrifice’ is for the organization of what is after it in relation to what is before it, in that God, exalted is He, gave [Muhammad]- peace and prayer be upon him- what was mentioned of the gift which was not given to any one [else] in the world, deserving to the one commissioned by Him, that is, one deserving. That is: continue in prayer to your Lord- He who has poured out upon you this glorious grace, to which no [other] grace compares- purely devoted to His face, differing from the heedless hypocrites, so stand in the reality of gratitude for it, for verily the canonical prayer is a uniting of the various parts of gratitude. ‘And sacrifice’: the torso (al-badn), which is the choice part of the goods of the Bedouin, and give alms to the needy, differing from him who repells them [the needy] and forbids them, forbidding from them small kindnesses. And on the authority of ‘Attīa: it is the canonical prayer of dawn in a gathering, and the sacrifice is in Mina, and it is said: [it is] the prayer of the festival and of the sacrifical animal. It is said: it is the kind of prayer, and ‘the sacrifice’ is the placing of the right [hand] upon the left, under his sacrifice. It is said: it is that one raise his hands during the ‘God is great’, towards his sacrifice. And according to ibn ‘Abbās: face the qibla with your sacrifice, that is, during the ritual prayer. Al-Fara’ and al-Kalbī [also] say this.

‘Verily, he who hates you’: that is, the one who despises you, whoever he may be, ‘he is cut off’: he who has no descendent, when there does not subsist for him lineage, no glorification of remembrance- but as for you [Muhammad], your progeny remains, your fame is glorified, and your virtue praised, up to the day of the Resurrection. Because all who are begotten of the Muslims are your sons and your descendants, your remembrance is lifted up in the minbars, and is upon the tongue of every scholar and mystic, to the end of the age. One begins with the remembrance of God, and one gives praise through your remembrance. You possess in the next world what is not described in the Qur’an, and one cut off does not speak of even your likeness, rather, the one cut off, he who hates you, is forgotten in this world and the next.

It is said: [the verse] descended regarding al-‘As ibn Wā’al, who used to call the Prophet, peace and prayer be upon him, ‘cut off,’ after [Muhammad’s] son, ‘Abd Allāh, died. He stopped [to speak] with the Prophet, peace and prayer be upon him, and it was said to him: ‘With whom did you stop to speak?’ He said: ‘With that cut-off one.’ So Quraysh called him cut-off and one solitary without descendants. And when Ka’ab ibn al-Ashra- God curse him!- preceded to Mekka, and Quraysh agitated against [Muhammad], peace and prayer be upon him, saying to [Ka’ab]: ‘We are the people of al-Saqāya and al-Sadāna, and you are the master of the people of al-Medīna- so are we better, or is that cut-off solitary one without descendants of your people [better]?’ He answered: ‘You are better,’ so [the following verse] descended regarding Ka’ab: ‘Have you not looked to those to whom half of the Book was given, who believe in al-Jibat and al-Tāghūt…?’ (al-Nisa’, 51) And [the following verse] descended regarding them, ‘Verily, he who hates you, he is cut off.’

Spiritual allusions: it is said to the successor (khalīfa) of the Messenger, he who is molded after [Muhammad’s] innate characterstics and follows after him: ‘We gave you al-kawthar,’ abundance of good, because whoever obtains gnosis of God has gained the entire good. ‘He who has found You, what is he deprived of?’ [Ibn ‘Attā Allāh, Kitāb al-Hikam, Munājāt 26] ‘So pray to your Lord’ the prayer of the heart, ‘and sacrifice’ yourself and your passions. ‘Verily he who hates you’ and despises you, ‘he is cut off,’ and as for you, your remembrance continues, and your life is not cut off, because the death of the people of piety is life without annihilation afterwards. And Junayd said: ‘“He who hates you, he is cut off”: that is, cut off from attaining hope in You.’

May God pray for our master Muhammad and his house!

Surah al-Kawthar: Sufi Tafsir: al-Sulami

Now for something rather different. Here we have an early example of Sufi Qur’an exegesis, composed by the eleventh century Sufi al-Sulamī; it will be followed in a day or two with an excerpt from a much later Moroccan Sufi, ibn ‘Ajiba. Hermeneutically, al-Sulamī’s exegetical moves here are not terribly different from his more exoteric contemporaries. For instance, in interpreting the tricky term al-kawthar, where other exegetes expand upon the term using ‘standard’ Islamic concepts, al-Sulamī deploys Sufi ideas and terms as possible explanations. As with the non-Sufi commentaries, all of his possible explanations follow from the exegetical commonplace, well established by the eleventh century, that al-kawthar was either ‘abundance of good’ (which could encompass, as we have seen, virtually anything) or ‘a river in Paradise.’ Al-Sulamī follows from both, expanding upon them, but from a Sufi perspective.

Also similar hermeneutically to other commentators is the Sufi ‘occasion of revelation’ included here. Or at least its form reminds us of an occasion of revelation story- in fact, its inclusion of the occasion of revelation of the verse in question is only a secondary component of the story. The scripture references reinforce the story, which itself does relatively little to explain the verse at hand. Rather, this is perhaps less an occasion of revelation story as it is an instance of what Gerhard Bowering has described as a process in which particular ‘key-notes, words, or phrases set off’ a mystical commentator into a story or explanation or burst of poetry. While all tafsīr- Sufi and non-Sufi- tends to be rather free-flowing, Sufi tafsīr in particular tends to have a measure of freedom and sometimes seeming randomness that sets it apart from other forms of Islamic exegesis. Perhaps this is intentional: like mystical experience itself, the ‘inner’ appreciation of the text is harder to control, is more ‘random’ and organic. And also like mystical experience, perhaps the apparent dissonance of conflicting opinions, one after another, is the point: that all of these senses and interpretations can coexit, because of the ultimate inexpressibility of the inner experience, of the inner meaning.

His saying, exalted is He: ‘Verily, We have given you al-kawthar.’ Al-Sādiq said about His saying ‘I have given you al-kawthar’: [it is] a light in your [Muhammad’s] heart, that is on account of Me, and it cuts you off from what is other than Me. He [al-Sādiq] also said: intercession (al-shifā’a) for your community (ummatika).

One of them said: ‘We have given you’ miracles which increase in number the people of compliance (ahl al-ijāba) in accordance with your summoning. And ibn ‘Attā’ said: [al-kawthar is] the message and prophethood. And ibn ‘Attā’ said: [al-kawthar is] knowledge of My Lordship, and being singled out by My unicity, My power, and My will. And Sahl [al-Tustarī] said: [al-kawthar is] the basin [in Paradise], you give to drink whom you will by My permission, and you forbid [to drink from the basin] whom you will by My permission.

Al-Qāsim said about His saying, ‘Verily, the one who hates you, he is cut off (al-abtar),’ that is, out of commission, cut off from the good things of the two worlds together.

Abū Sa’īd al-Qarashī said: when there descended upon the Prophet, peace and prayers of God be upon him, [the verse] ‘O those who are summoned, desire from your Lord the means, closeness.’ The Prophet said: ‘O Lord, you took Ibrahīm as a friend (khalīlan), and Mūsā as a spokesman (kalīman), so with what do you distinguish me?’ Then God, exalted is He, sent down [the verse] ‘Have We not opened your chest?’ But he [Muhammad] was not content with that, so God sent down [the verse] ‘Did He not find you an orphan then give [you] shelter?’ But he was not content with that, and He changed him so as to not be content, because reliance upon one’s state (al-hāl) is the cause of the cutting off of the highest degree [i.e., being content with a lower spiritual state prevents the attainment of the highest spiritual state]. So God sent down [the verse] ‘Verily, We have given you al-kawthar,’ but he was not content with that until, as we report, Jibrīl, peace and prayers of God be upon him, said: ‘Verily, God, exalted is He, greets you with peace, saying: “If I have taken Ibrahīm as a friend, Mūsā as a spokesmen, then I have taken you as a beloved one (habīban) and as My power, for I have prefered My beloved over My friend and My spokesman.”’ So he [Muhammad] was content, and this is more glorious than [the state of] satisfaction because of this audacity of speech and argument, because satisfaction is for the beloved, while distraction and expansion are for the friend. Or have you not looked to the story of Ibrahīm, prayers of God be upon him, and his state was that of glad tidings; he argued with Us and he is [in the state of] expansion/joy.