The Centrality of The Divine Feminine In Sufism
Jun 23, 2009
Abdullah Muzaffer/ Laurence Galian:
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This article examines the concept of the Divine Feminine from the Sufî tradition (and its roots) with questions regarding the Sufî definition of the Divine Feminine, the various techniques used to experience it, the nature of the experiences, and the ultimate intentions of the sufi mystics known for engaging in such practices. It calls attention to an unexpected and little explored fact of immense significance in Islam: at the center of Islam abides the Divine Feminine.
The world famous Sufî poet Mevlana Jalaluddin R?m? (1207 – 1273) writes: “Woman is the radiance of God; she is not your beloved. She is the Creator —you could say that she is not created.”
Sufîsm cherishes the esoteric secret of woman, even though
Sufîsm is also the esoteric aspect of a seemingly patriarchal religion. Muslims
(someone who surrender to God) pray five times a day facing the city of
The Divine Feminine has always been present in Islam. This may be surprising to many people who wrongly perceived Islam as a patriarchal religion. Maybe the reason for this misconception is the very nature of the feminine in Islam. The Divine Feminine in Islam manifests metaphysically and in the inner expression of the religion. The Divine Feminine is not so much a secret within Islam as she is the compassionate heart of Islam that enables us to know divinity. Her centrality demonstrates her necessary and life-giving role in Islam.
Sufîsm has always honored the Divine Feminine. Of course, Allâh (God) has both masculine and feminine qualities, but to the Sufî, Allâh has always been the Beloved and the Sûfî has always been the Lover. The Qur’?n, referring to the final Day, perhaps divulges a portion of this teaching: “And there is manifest to them of God what they had not expected to see.”
There was a question long debated in Islam: can we see Allâh? The Prophet said in a had?th (narrations of the Prophet), “In Paradise the faithful will see Allâh with the clarity with which you see the moon on the fourteenth night (the full moon).” Theologians debated what this could mean, but the Sufîs have held that you can see Allâh even in this world, through the “eye of the heart.” The famous Sufî martyr al-Hallaj said in a poem, “I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart”. Relevant to the focus of this paper is that Sufîs have always described this theophanic experience as the vision of a woman, the female figure as the object of ru’yah (vision of Allâh).
There was a great Sufî Saint who was born in 1165 C.E. Besides Shi’a Muslims, numberless Sunni scholars called him “The Greatest Sheikh” (al-Shaykh al-Akbar). His name was Muyiddin ibn al-‘Arabî. He said, “To know woman is to know oneself,” and “Whoso knoweth his self, knoweth his Lord.” Ibn al-’Arabî wrote a collection of poems entitled “The Tarjumân al-ashwâq”. These are love poems that he composed after meeting the learned and beautiful Persian woman Nizam in Makkah. The poems are filled with images pointing to the Divine Feminine. His book Fusûs al-hikam, in the last chapter, relates that man’s supreme witnessing of Allâh is in the form of the woman during the act of sexual union. He writes, “The contemplation of Allâh in woman is the highest form of contemplation possible: As the Divine Reality is inaccessible in respect of the Essence, and there is contemplation only in a substance, the contemplation of God in women is the most intense and the most perfect; and the union which is the most intense (in the sensible order, which serves as support for this contemplation) is the conjugal act.” Allâh as the Beloved in Sufî literature, the ma‘shûq, is always depicted with female iconography.
A popular new book, The Da Vinci Code, a thriller by Dan
Brown, tells the story of a Harvard professor summoned to the
Starbird’s theological beliefs were profoundly shaken when
she read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book that dared to suggest that Jesus Christ
was married to Mary Magdalene and that their descendants carried on his holy
What do those who study Sufism claim is the hidden meaning regarding the existence of the sexes in creation? These researchers perceive that the biological and psychological differences between the sexes are only hints of a more momentous significance hidden within the divinity Itself. Of course, Sufîsm does not argue against the Oneness of Allâh. The quintessence of Allâh transcends duality, yet the Ultimate Reality manifests qualities in creation that are dualistic.
The Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine express two very distinct aspects of Allâh. First, that Allâh is Supreme is the principle of masculinity, and that Allâh is Infinite is the principle of femininity.
In the Qur’?n, Allâh reveals Itself by giving Itself ninety-nine names. These names are divided up by scholars into the names of Majesty (jalâl) and the names of Beauty (jamâl). The names of Majesty call to mind images of the stern and strict “father”, while the names of Beauty call to mind images of a gentle and loving “mother”. Allâh did not exhaust Itself in creating the world; hence Allâh still exists along with creation. Allâh, in creating the world, is indicative of masculine qualities, such as achievement, strength, dynamism, severity, and rulership. Yet, Allâh is also infinite compared to the finite world. This inconceivably extended aspect of Allâh is the aspect of Allâh that the Sufî often refers to in ecstatic poetry in the feminine gender. That is why Ibn al-‘Arabî says Allâh can be referred to as both Huwa (He) and Hiya (She). One of the drawbacks of the English language is that we do not give gender to nouns. Arabic, like the Romance languages, expresses words with gender. Many of the essential words regarding Allâh are in the feminine gender in Arabic.
In this article, the writer will analyze three of these
words: the first is al-Hakîm, the Wise; Wisdom is hikmah. In Arabic to say, for
example, “Wisdom is precious,” you could repeat the feminine pronoun: al-hikmah
hiya thamînah, literally “Wisdom, she is precious.” It is stated by some Sufî
Masters that Sufîsm originally was named Sophia, which connects Sufîsm with the
Christian Gnostic tradition, in which Wisdom is personified as a woman, the
divine Sophia. The physical mother of Jesus was an external image of
manifestation of the Virgin Sophia, the word “Sophia” stemming from Sophos
(wisdom). The Gnostics, whose language was Greek, identified the Holy Spirit
with Sophia, Wisdom; and Wisdom was considered female. The Virgin was closely
associated by the early church with Wisdom, of the cathedral church at
Julian of Norwich (1343-1420), English religious writer, an anchoress, or hermit, called Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Roman Catholic “Holy Trinity”, our Mother in Wisdom, and our Mother of Mercy or Compassion. The latter title with the words “mercy” and “compassion” returns us to a subtle interpretation of the phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, often translated as “In the name of Allâh the most Beneficent the most Merciful”, but with the added gnosis that God can appear to a human being as the Divine Feminine and that the Divine Feminine is not confined to Christian or Islamic mystical intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths. St. Peter Chrysologos presented the Virgin as the seven-pillared temple which Wisdom had built for herself.”
Mary was born of an angelic annunciation; F?tima (the
daughter of the Prophet Muhammad) was considered to come from the level of
angels. She is considered by many Muslims as divine in origin and several
variations of a major had?th describe how she was conceived on the night of
Mi’râj (ascension). On this night Gabriel took Muhammad to
F?tima tul Zehra (F?tima the Radiant, F?tima the Brightest Star, F?tima-Star of Venus, F?tima-The Evening Star), the daughter of the Prophet, is the secret in Sufîsm. She is the Hujjat of ‘Al?. In other words, she establishes the esoteric sense of his knowledge and guides those who attain to it. Through her perfume, we breathe paradise. Though she was his daughter, the Prophet Muhammad called her Um Abi’ha (mother of her father). What mystery was the Prophet hinting at by this statement? While F?tima Zehra was Muhammad’s daughter, the Rasulullah (Prophet of God – Muhammad) understood that his gnosis was bestowed upon him from the Divine Feminine.
F?tima Fatir as representative of Allâh’s Jamal (Beauty), saves humankind from Allâh’s Jalal (Majesty). Esoterically, if it were not for F?tima (Mercy), Allâh would never have sent Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’?n to humanity. The night is the exemplification of our sovereign F?tima, especially the “Night of Destiny” (laylat al-Qadr). Lady F?tima was chosen from all women to be the mother source of Prophet Muhammad’s lineage, the core of the generation of Prophet Muhammad. Through her, the progeny of the Prophet multiplies – through a woman. The process of giving birth to the spirit is the feminine principle. That to which has been given birth is the masculine. “This is why, in spiritual transformation and rebirth, only the masculine principle can be born, for the feminine principle is the process itself. Once birth is given to the spirit, this principle remains as F?tima, the Creative Feminine, the Daughter of the Prophet, in a state of potentiality within the spirit reborn.” Sh?’as revere the person of F?tima, for she is the mother of the line of inspired spiritual leaders who embodied the divine truth for their generation. As such, F?tima is directly associated with Sophia, the divine wisdom, which gives birth to all knowledge of God. She has thus become another symbolic equivalent of the Great Mother. Lady F?tima (as) has various names near Allâh (Exalted Be His Name. She was also given the title of “az-Zahraa” which means “the Resplendent One.” That was because of her beaming face, which seemed to radiate light. However, others, who must keep their beliefs prudently concealed, know the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter as “F?tima Fatir”.
The second word the author will consider, in this article, is accounted the second most important name of Allâh, and that is Al-Rahmân, the All-Merciful. The first verse of Al-Fatiha (the most important chapter in the Qur’?n) firmly establishes that the two names Al-Rahmân and Al-Rahîm refer to Allâh, the Supreme Power, and to Allâh exclusively. The two names’ etymology stems from the same root: RAHM, which can mean “womb” or “place of origin”. There is a hadith qudsî (sacred hadith) that specifically addresses that: Allâh says, “I am Al-Rahmân. I created the womb and I derived its name from My name. I will be connected to whoever stays connected to it, and I will be cut off from whoever stays cut off from it.”
Sister W.H. believes that most translators, in translating these words, do not take into consideration the context in which Allâh refers to Itself as Rahmân or Rahim. Surah (chapter) Maryam (Mary) is the chapter in which the name Al-Rahmân is mentioned most frequently (sixteen times). In verse 18 of this chapter, Mother Mary asks for protection from Al-Rahmân against one whom she perceives as a man entering her private chambers, but who in fact is the Archangel Gabriel. Sister W.H. holds that Mother Mary is asking for protection from the Most Powerful, the Almighty, not mercy from “the Beneficent” as Rahmân is often translated. Sister W.H. continues by stating that Mother Mary declares this asking for protection from Al-Rahmân to the “intruder” in order also to frighten the “intruder,” for which situation the appellation “the Merciful” or “The Most Gracious” would hardly instill fear, and hence also be unsuitable. In every instance of the usage of the name Al-Rahmân in the Qur’?n, in the opinion of sister W.H., the only appropriate interpretation is expressed in the name The Almighty. Yet, as Cecilia Twinch perceives in her article The Beauty of Oneness witnessed in the emptiness of the heart, “in this state of not knowing what the reality of the situation was, she turned to God with all her being, saying, ‘I take refuge in the Merciful (Rahmân) from you.’ ‘Consequently,’ Ibn ‘Arabi says, ‘she was overwhelmed with a perfect state of the Divine Presence.’
Nevertheless, Sister W.H. recounts another example of the Almighty power of Al-Rahmân, we have the description in Chapter Taha, verse 5, that culminates when “Al-Rahmân “is established on the throne.” Thus the Holy Qur’?n says, “Your Guardian-Lord is Allâh, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the Throne.” This is the perfect image of power and authority, the assumption of full authority over everything.
Chapter 109 in the Qur’ân, al-Kawthar, gives an especially
revealing look into the Prophet’s feminine soul. It was revealed because his
enemies had been taunting him that he had no sons, only daughters, while they
had been given sons to perpetuate their patriarchal ways. Allâh revealed this
message of consolation to the Prophet: “We have given thee al-Kawthar … surely
the one who hates thee will be cut off (from progeny).” What is al-Kawthar?
Al-Kawthar is a sacred pool of life-giving water in
Eric Ackroyd, author of A Dictionary of Dream Symbols: With an Introduction to Dream Psychology writes about water, “It is a feminine symbol, representing either your own femininity (whether you are a male or female), or your mother.” In addition, the Ka’ba stood by a sacred spring, the Zamzam, whose sacred waters are drunk by all good Muslims. The Hajira or “sudden departure” although applied to the events following 622 C.E. bears the same name as Hajira (Hagar), who discovered the spring of Zamzam flowing by Prophet Ishmael’s foot when searching for water for him after the “sudden departure” of Prophet Abraham.
Therefore, we see the Divine Feminine, as the Source of Life, being expressed first by the means that humans may understand the Divine Feminine, in other words, Wisdom, being a feminine word, second, by the two most holy names of Allâh: al-Rahmân and al-Rahim which express in a universal way (spanning cultures as varied as Egyptian, Hittitie and Celtic) that the Source of Life is the Divine Feminine.
However, the Divine Feminine does not always manifest in
ways that most people think of as traditional, in other words: nurturing,
embracing, caring, and so forth. She has a martial aspect too, and so it is not
surprising that Al-Rahmân wields power and can appropriately be called The Almighty.
Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander has explored the spiritual meaning
of the Feminine in
Now the author will consider the third name, and perhaps the most outstanding of all: al-Dhât. This word, in Arabic, is also feminine. Allâh is Beyond the Beyond, higher than any action, manner or condition, and any thought that any being may have. This transcendence of all qualities denotes the Divine Feminine. The renowned Sûfî master Najm al-Din Kubra wrote of the Dhât as the “Mother of the divine attributes.” On this makam or “level of existence”, femininity corresponds to interiority and masculinity to manifestation.
Ibn al-‘Arabî divulged, “I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allâh, keeping in view the Essence.” The perfection of the human state, al-insân al-kâmil, means the perfection of both the masculine and feminine qualities together, and is symbolized by the marriage of Im?m ‘Al? (the nephew and brother-in-law of Muhammad) and F?tima (the daughter of Muhammad).
Love stories abound in all cultures: Romeo and Juliet,
Orpheus and Eurydice, Tristan and Isolde, and in the
The blackness of night is an essential quality of the Divine Feminine. The “black cloak” of Muhammad is very famous. The Sufis sing about kali kamaliya vala (the one wrapped in the black blanket) in their qawwalis (spiritual songs). Prophet Muhammad’s prayer rug was also black, as was the first flag of Islam.
In the nighttime, all that is visible during the day
vanishes into the darkness. Boundaries fade away at night. Forms are no longer
visible. This apparent lack of manifestation that takes place during the night
is directly connected to the unmanifested aspect of the Divine Nature, Allâh as
Unmanifest. “Aba’ad”, is a very well known song from the
Each Sufi Master has a woman that develops him into a master. Therefore, in Sufîsm, we see that woman is the Hidden Initiatrix, the Shadow Guide, the Blackness that births the Light. “Da tariki, tariqat” – “In the darkness, the Path,” is a Sufic maxim. The void has been described as a dark cave, a shadowy mihrab, the Concealed or Secret Radiance, the Black Stone of the Ka’ba, Ghayb ul-Ghaib ( Mystery of Mysteries ), Amma ( Darkness), and returning to the Womb of F?tima (‘Alaiha Assalam) the Mother.
The Prophet Muhammad pronounced an utterance of supreme compassion and love for the feminine when he was returning from a battle with his Companions. They came upon a group of women and children. One woman had lost her child and was going around looking for him, her breasts flowing with milk. When she found her child, she joyfully put him to her breast and nursed him.
The Prophet asked his Companions, “Do you think that this woman could throw her son in the fire?”
They answered “No.”
He then said, “Allâh is more merciful to His servants than this woman to her son.”
Rumi, in an amazing passage of the Masnavi on the Return to Allâh, made reference to the story of the infant Prophet Moses and addressed Allâh directly as “Mother”:
“On Resurrection Day, the sun and moon are released from service:
and the eye beholds the Source of their radiance,
then it discerns the permanent possession from the loan,
and this passing caravan from the abiding home.
If for a while a wet nurse is needed,
Mother, return us to your breast.
I don’t want a nurse; my Mother is more fair.
I am like Moses whose nurse and Mother were the same.”
Nick Herbert, a renowned physicist, states, “Science has succeeded (perhaps too well) in taming Nature; now it’s time to learn how to woo Her, seeing Her not as a collection of dead parts but approaching Nature as the very Body of the Beloved.”
In Islam, there is not the same condemnation of the body as is found in many of the major Christian sects. Spirit if often depicted in Christianity as “male” and the body as “female”. The body is not an obstacle in Islam, but rather it is a means to attain enlightenment. Sexual pleasure is not shunned in Islam, but rather incorporated into daily life. To begin with, the body itself is given great significance in Islam when one takes into account the bodily postures that are a necessary and essential part of the Islamic prayers. During the prayers the body is metamorphosed into a manifestation of the sacred. These bodily postures are very similar to the bodily postures one observes in Hatha Yoga, which is a branch of Tantric Yoga. Islam’s unitary, holistic view of the body and spirit is evident in the alchemical saying of the Shi‘ite Im?ms, “our spirits are our bodies and our bodies are our spirits).
One of the primary goals of the Sûfî is to reawaken the body to an awareness of it being an expression of the divine. The body is not basically sinful (as in the Roman Catholic Church’s conception of Original Sin) in Islam, rather the body is the seat of the highest reality created by Allâh in the whole universe. To understand the Divine Feminine in Sufîsm, it is helpful to understand a few basics of Tantra Yoga.
Therefore, the author asks the reader’s indulgence as he briefly explores Tantra Yoga. The author believes the reader will be richly rewarded for his or her patience. The basic tenet of Tantrism is that matter, and therefore the body, is also a manifestation of ?akti power, that is, the power emanating from the feminine aspect of Divine Reality. In the domain of the spiritual life, the same term ?akti signifies the celestial energy that allows one to enter into contact with the Divinity. Hence, the body must not be opposed or despised. Tantra has been one of the most neglected branches of Indian spiritual studies despite the considerable number of texts devoted to this practice, which dates back to the 5th-9th century C.E. Tantra itself means, “to weave, to expand, and to spread”, and according to Tantric masters, the fabric of life can provide true and ever-lasting fulfillment only when all the threads are woven according to the pattern designated by nature. Sex, being a part of nature, then is considered part of the fabric of life. The physical, spiritual and mental cannot be separated. To the Tantrics, the body is a form of consciousness, but this consciousness is veiled.
There is a form of Tantra, entitled “Kundalinî Tantra”. This is the Yoga of sexual intercourse. In the classical literature of hatha yoga Kundalini literally means coiling, like a snake. Kundalini can be understood as an immanent and latent liberating power, or as potentiality of liberation. This power lies in wait (is coiled) at the base of the spine of the average person. It is useful to think of Kundalinî energy as the very foundation of our consciousness so that when Kundalinî moves through our bodies our consciousness necessarily changes with it. Kundalini Tantra is engaged in precisely for the reason of freeing up this energy that is waiting at the base of the spine, and allowing it to flow freely up the spine. In yogic anatomy the sushumna is the central channel and conduit for the Kundalinî energy that runs along our spine and up to the crown of our head, the summit of liberation (brahmarandhra). Along this channel are placed seven additional channel networks called chakras. These chakras are associated with major aspects of our anatomy – for example our throat, heart, solar plexus, and in turn these aspects of our anatomy are related to aspects of our human nature.
What ties Tantra to Sufîsm is contained in the symbolism of Prophet Muhammad’s night-time ascent to Heaven. The Prophet ascended on al-Burâq, a riding beast with the head of a woman, through the seven heavens to the Throne of God. The Had?th relates that the Prophet’s bed was still warm when he returned from the Mi’râj. On this night, the Prophet Muhammad reached within “two bows’ length” of Allâh. Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi explains: “Imagine lover and Beloved as a single circle divided by a line into two bow-shaped arcs. This line but seems to exist, yet does not, and if it will be erased at the moment of the Meeting, the circle will appear again as one – as in fact it really is. This then is the secret of Two Bows’ Length.” The secret Sufic explanation of the fact that the Prophet’s bed was still warm, is that Prophet Muhammad was making this journey while making love with his wife Khadijah.
Additionally, it is possible that Prophet Muhammad’s night-time ascent to Heaven, al-Mi‘râj, was mediated by an hallucinogenic plant. Baqir Majlisi reports, “It is related from the Prophet that over each leaf and seed of the isfand plant an angel is appointed so that through its bark and roots and branches grief and sorcery are set aside.”
Interpretation of the Qur’?n in the light of Sahaja Yoga was
the topic of the first international conference of the Islamic Study Group in
the city of
Sometimes when the Divine Feminine is realized in all Her Splendor, She so transforms her devotees that their forms of worship are transformed also. Hence Islamic and Sufi groups arise that are considered heretical to mainstream Islamic and Sufi belief structures through attention and study of the feminine aspects of divinity. The concept that Allâh is the feminine form of the Ultimate Reality is the inner secret of the most esoteric mysteries of Islam. Ibn ‘al-‘Arabî pronounced: “True divinity is female, and Makkah is the womb of the Earth.” Because he said the godhead was feminine, they accused Ibn al-‘Arabî of blasphemy. In fact, Allâh commanded reverence for womankind in the Qur’ân. “Pay ye heed to Allâh on whose bounty ye depend, and pay ye heed to womankind!” Prophet Muhammad said that woman is the greatest treasure in the world. One of Sufîsm’s first saints, Râbi‘ah, is held with equal reverence as any male saint. In Chapter 9 of the Qur’?n, At-Taubah, it is written: “Then Allâh did send down His Sakînah (calmness, tranquility and reassurance, etc.) on the Messenger (Muhammad), and on the believers, and sent down forces (angels) . . .” Then in Chapter 48 we find: “It is He who sent down the Sakînah into the hearts of the believers, that they might add faith to their faith.”
The Sakînah in Islam is a manifestation of the Divine
Feminine, very similar to the Shekinah in the Hebrew tradition. Prophecies of
the return of the Shekinah, which had left the
In Arabic, Barakah means blessing or Divine Grace. It is a feminine Arabic name. Barakah also carries the meaning of “soul power”, the “blessing”, “irradiation of sanctity”, or the “protective energy”, all of which constitute so many images of the celestial Femininity.
Some contemporary feminists have condemned Muslim men for forcing Muslim women to wear the veil. First, it must be made clear that the veil is a patriarchal cultural (Arabic) accretion that is not a rule of Islam. However, the veiling of women, suggests mystery and sacralization. The Prophet said of himself: “The Law (sharî‘ah) is what I say; the Path (Tarîqah) is what I do; and Knowledge (Haqîqah) is what I am.” The Law carries with it connotations of masculine action, while Knowledge carries with it a sense of feminine intuition. One can truly experience the Divine Feminine only through this Knowledge. Prophet Muhammad also said “Three things from your world have been made beloved to me: women, and perfume, and prayer the comfort of my eyes.”
The great Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti in his article “True Love” writes, “The Prophet of Allâh, when he tells of the things he was made to love, puts woman above man. He uses the word thalath, feminine three, not thalathah, masculine three, and yet in the same sentence there is the word tib – perfume, which is masculine. In Arabic grammar when it is said, for example, ‘F?tima and Zayd came,’ the verb is in the masculine form. Thus the Prophet has purposefully and ungrammatically given precedence to the female over the male. In addition to the first loved one being feminine, third loved one, salât, is also (grammatically) feminine. The pattern is repeated thus: Dhat (Essence) is feminine; Adam is masculine; Eve is feminine. It is the concept of trinity: man (masculine) is between two feminines. They are linked: Essence to man; man to woman; woman to Essence.”
Unfortunately, much of the sexual revelations of the Saints of Sufîsm have been repressed. We are only now becoming aware of the great extent of these teachings. The Muslim scholar, Im?m S?yut?, wrote at least nine known works on erotic techniques. S?yut? is considered one of latter day Islam’s greatest exoteric scholars. Most of his peers also wrote one or two works on the subject, some were quite prolific. Ibn al-‘Arabî also wrote a book of erotic poetry titled Tarjumân al-ashwâq (The Interpreter of Desires) which has meaning on both the erotic level and the spiritual level at once. Ruzbihan Baqli, a great Sufî saint, wrote, “He poured me the wines of proximity; it was as though I was in that place like a bride in the presence of God. What took place after that cannot enter into expression. He graced me in a form that I cannot tell to any of God’s creatures, and he was unveiled and there manifested from him the lights of his beautiful attributes.” The Sufîs have had to be very careful in their mystical descriptions of their encounters with the Divine Feminine, as Sufîs have been tortured and martyred for their sayings and writings which offend the traditional fundamentalists.
The Prophet Muhammad never advocated celibacy. According to a had?th, “marriage is half the religion”; and in some Sufi orders, a student of Sufism cannot be considered for initiation until he or she is married. To know the Absolute, one must experience the primordial totality of the soul. Therefore, sexual union provides the Sufi with a glimpse of this Totality or Unity. The Prophet of Islam taught that when husband and wife look in each other’s eyes with love, their sins are forgiven. When they hold hands, good deeds are recorded for them. When they make love, they are surrounded by praying angels. One statement of the Prophet is that: “In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa.” The Prophet also stated, “Three things are counted inadequacies in a man. Firstly, meeting someone he would like to get to know, and taking leave of him before learning his name and his family. Secondly, rebuffing the generosity that another shows to him. And thirdly, going to his wife and having intercourse with her before talking to her and gaining her intimacy, (and) satisfying his need from her before she has satisfied her need from him.”
In other words, the Prophet stated that a proper Muslim man understands that the woman takes priority before the man in reaching orgasm. This statement of Prophet Muhammad is a clear indication that Islam (as was taught and practiced during his life) regarded women in the marriage bed as equal, if not superior, to men.
The Sufî and exoteric legalist scholar, Im?m Abu Hamid al-Ghaz?l? (d. 505/1111), stated that, “Sex should begin with gentle words and kissing.” The scholar of both outward exoteric studies, and inward studies, Im?m al-Zabidi adds, in his commentary on al-Ghaz?l?: “This should include not only the cheeks and lips; and then he should caress the breasts and nipples, and every part of her body.”
Regarding foreplay, Prophet Muhammad stated, “Not one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a messenger between you.”
“And what is that messenger?” they asked; and he replied, “Kisses and words.”
In his Magnum Opus Encyclopedia of the Islamic Religious Sciences, the Ihya Ul?m al-D?n, Im?m Abu Hamid al-Ghaz?l? stated, “When he has come to his orgasm (inzal), he should wait for his wife until she comes to her orgasm likewise; for her climax may well come slowly. If he arouses her desire, and then sits back from her, this will hurt her, and any disparity in their orgasms will certainly produce a sense of estrangement. A simultaneous orgasm will be the most delightful for her, especially since her husband will be distracted by his own orgasm from her, and she will not therefore be afflicted by shyness.”
This book, the Ihya Ul?m al-D?n has been for over a thousand or so years the most popular work on the Islamic religious sciences, indeed it is a bestseller now in the Muslim world, and its sub-books have popular English translations even today.
Female-oriented religions are directly connected with birth
and the body, nurturing, fecundity, non-violence, wholeness, spirals, circles
and the Underworld. Perhaps this is the profound insight that the Prophet
Muhammad had when he said, “
Christianity, through contact with Sufîsm, has awakened to
the Divine Feminine, in the form of chivalry or courtly love, characterized by
the cult of the “Lady” and by a no less particular devotion for the Virgin. The
poetry of spiritualized Eros was passed along through the courtly love songs of
the troubadours and the deliberately veiled symbolism of the alchemists.
Patriarchal Christianity in the early Middle Ages condemned women as inferior
and the cause of sin, and enforced the most repressive rules ever. It was only
when the benign influence of Islam and Sufîsm began to make itself felt in
After this, Western civilization began to soften toward
women, and the veneration of Mary came to the forefront. However, “sacred sex”
had to remain underground in Christianity and could only be detected in the
veiled, symbolic language of the poets and the alchemists. The French
troubadour Peire Vidal (d. 1205?) said in one of his poems: “I think I see God
when I look on my lady nude.” He was put on trial and nearly burned at the
stake. Sufîs have often had to practice the art of taqiya (or concealment).
That is, they practice the customs and religious practices of the people
amongst whom they are living, in order not to be martyred by the prevailing
traditionalists. The same became true for those who were privy to the arts of
sacred sex during the Middle Ages. Many alchemical texts are actually manuals
of coital practices to achieve Divine Awareness through sexual ecstasy. Books
The Divine Feminine, while hidden and mysteriously woven throughout Sufîsm, nevertheless will not be denied, but will reveal Herself to those worthy of the knowledge. Is the Divine Feminine an aspect of Allâh , the form by which Allâh unveils Allâh to human beings, the Ultimate Reality of Allâh, the Dark Unmanifest cosmic womb from which Ya Nur (The Light) bursts forth?
Her nature is as fluid as the dominion of water, which is a symbol of the Divine Feminine. “It has a voice and can be silent, murmur gently when tranquil or range and roar when it is tempestuous. Water has many powers. It has the ability to refresh men and animals and to restore new life to dried out vegetation. It can heal and purify and also has the capacity to destroy. Water symbolizes the original fountain of life, which precedes all form and all creation. Many myths and legends are based on a concept of there being a primeval ocean or watery abyss that was the source of all life. In the Hebrew view of creation it is said that ‘the Spirit of God moved on the face of the Waters’ and that ‘the waters of the Torah’ are the life-giving waters of the sacred law. In the Qur’?n it is said, ‘From the water we made every living thing’.”
The waters flowing, from this gateway of the Divine Feminine, stream throughout Sufî thought and practice…
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