Previous Page
Table Of Contents
Next Page

 

22

 

of these marriages. To be sure, some of these were purely formal arrangements made for compassionate or political reasons. But the fact remains that Muhammad was a family man who had five children, and the dissensions among his wives had major repercussions in the early Muslim community. Many of Muhammad's actions certainly had to do with spiritual needs known only to him, but it can be seen that he lived the life of a man among men, to show how life can be lived. Yet the requirements of the times were different from those of today. Muhammad's actions need not be explained away or denied, and in the same way, it is foolish to try to judge his actions by the hypocritical standards of middle-class morality. As Hafiz said, "About what you hear from the master, never say it is wrong, because, my dear, the fault lies with you." The Sufis did not fail to meet directly the problem of interpreting Muhammad's involvement with the world. One of the sayings attributed to Muhammad goes, "Three things from your world been made beautiful for me: women, perfume, and my delight in prayer." Far from glossing over such a saying, the perfect master Ibn 'Arabi made it the focus of his meditation on the Prophet Muhammad in the culminating chapter of his Bezels of Wisdom.

 

So much on the human side. What, then, of his relationship with God? It is commonly asserted that Muslims regard Muhammad as a mere human who was privileged to convey God's message to humanity. This is more or less the position of mainstream Islamic theology. Muhammad himself often stressed this, even in homely ways, saying, "I am a man like you, whose grandmother used to eat dried camel meat." Meher Baba called it Muhammad's "divine mistake" that he maintained that he was only human. But as the words of 'Ayn al-Qudat suggest, there was much speculation of a mystical type on the close relationship that exists between the light of Muhammad and the light of God. While the Sufis used daring language to express the intimate relationship between Muhammad and God, they have generally considered the concept of "incarnation" to be inadequate, because of the semi-materialistic idea of the spirit which this implied in Islamic circles. Describing the "I am God" state, Rumi said, "This ‘I’ was ‘He' (God) in the inmost consciousness, through oneness with the Light, not through incarnation" (Mathnavi V. 2038 Nicholson, adapted). Sufi mystical literature, which is mostly unknown in the West, gives a far different impression than the "Official" interpretations of Muhammad's spiritual nature. Relying on little-known but authentic sayings of Muhammad, the Sufis have explained Muhammad as the preexisting reality on which creation depends, as one who has attained perfect union with God, and as the unique spiritual leader who stands out above all others.

 

All students of Islam are familiar with the hadith, the vast corpus of sayings attributed to Muhammad, but few in the West know the hadith gudsi or divine sayings. These are extra-Qur'anic revelations in which God speaks through Muhammad in the first person. It is here that we find remarkable indications of the pre-existent nature of Muhammad. God said, "If it were not for you (Muhammad), I would not have created the world." In another place, God said to Muhammad, "I created you for My sake." Thus Muhammad is the reason for the world's existence, and exists in a special relationship with God. He referred to his own primordiality in saying, "I was a prophet when Adam was between water and clay." That is, Muhammad was fully perfected before humanity was perfected. There is a very interesting theme developed by early Sufis, who interpreted the famous "light verse" (Qur. 24.35) as a description of Muhammad. The verse says, "God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The symbol of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass, and the glass is as though it were a shining star. The lamp is kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost blaze up with no fire touching it. Light upon light! God guides whom He wills with His light . . ." * Meditating on this passage, the 9th-century Sufi master Sahl al-Tustari said,

 

"The first light of God is Muhammad the Beloved, because when God wished to create       Muhammad, He manifested a light from His own light that illuminated the entire kingdom.       When Muhammed reached the divine

*In the Koran translated by Yusuf Ali, 1934 p. 907, it reads: “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a lamp: The Lamp enclosed in Glass: The glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the East Nor of the West, Whose Oil is well-nigh Luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His light.” - webmaster

 

 

Next Page