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Dr. Zahurul Hassan Sharib has briefly paid attention to an

important Sufi doctrine in his The Culture of the Sufis (see pp.
100-1). It is the doctrine of haqiqa al-muhammadiyya (the
logos of Muhammad). For some reason or other this
doctrine has always fascinated me.

For me it is a journey into new worlds, to be slowly

explored, but to shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir from Algeria (1808-
1883 C.E.) it is familiar ground. Sufis like him have
received the blessing of an opening up of this subject. The
Algerian shaykh received answers in a vision related to a
teaching of the shaykh 'Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish, a
descendant of the Prophet who died in 1228 C.E.

The Algerian shaykh comments on this vision in mawqif 57

of his Kitab al-Mawaqif. In # 89 he returns to this subject by
presenting a long list of technical Sufi terms all related to
the Sufi doctrine under discussion.

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) can be seen in three

different ways:

1. He can be seen as the seal of the prophets.

2. He can be seen as a mediator for human beings.
3. He can be seen as an intermediary between God and the
world. This is further explored in the discussion of the
doctrine of haqiqa al-muhammadiyya in Mawqif 89.

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) has said: "The first thing

God created was my light. The doctrine of the logos
(haqiqa al-muhammadiyya) implies in the terminology of light
that all the prophets and friends of God (awliya) were born
of the light of Muhammad. The reality of the origin of
prophecy can also be found in earlier traditions. Jesus has
said in John 8:58: "Verily, verily, before Abraham was, I
was." Metranon is in the Jewish Kabbala the very principle
of prophecy that is the equivalent of the haqiqa al-

Fateme Rahmati in her study Der Mensch als Spiegelbild Gottes

in der Mystik Ibn 'Arabis (= The Human Being as Mirror of
God in the Mysticism of Ibn al-'Arabi) mentions three
aspects of this Muhammadan Reality. The first one is that
the haqiqa al-muhammadiyya is the link (das Bindeglied)
connecting God and the world. The two other aspects are
the 'antropological' aspect of the Perfect Human Being
(insan al-kamil) and the mystical aspect as the 'word' (logos)
of God. I’ll return to these two aspects below.

She states about the ontological aspect that shaykh Ibn al-
'Arabi mentions 3 steps in regard to 'being' (wujud):

- Being in itself that is self-existing. It is the absolute,

unlimited Being, and anything 'else' doesn't exist for It.
- Being that is there, because of God. This is the complete
cosmos with all and everything in it.
- That which is neither being nor non-being, and neither
eternal nor temporal. It is outside of time and space. It is
an abstract concept about which can be said that it is both
God and the universe, but it can also be said that it is
neither God nor the universe. It is the primordial human
being (Urmensch), the primary matter of the complete
universe, the all-embracing principle of the created world,
and the truth of truths.

Shaykh Ibn al-'Arabi equates this third kind of being with

the haqiqa al-muhammadiyya.
Fateme Rahmati's commentary then deals with 2 sub-

a. The Muhammadan Reality in its relation to God.

b. The Muhammadan Reality in its relation to the world.

You’ll find the name of her valuable study at the end of

this article, but I’ll also return to her findings. Let’s
continue with a personal experience of the Algerian Sufi
shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir.

Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri describes a vision in # 57

of his Kitab al-Mawaqif: He is sitting under a white dome,
while talking to people who were invisible to him. The
subject of this talk was a line of shaykh Ibn Mashish:

Turn the supreme veil into the life of my spirit and turn His Spirit
into the secret of my essential reality.

The Algerian shaykh then said to the invisible persons in

his company that shaykh Ibn Mashish pointed to the
Muhammadiyya Reality, which is known under many names.
In a later discourse in his Kitab al-Mawaqif he presents a
long list thereof. I'll discuss some aspects of this list in the
remainder of this article. Shaykh Ibn Mashish wishes to
ask: "Make me perfectly alive, by means of that reality; not
simply alive in a general way, because the spirit implies life,
and not the opposite. Each spirit is alive, but not
everything that is alive is spirit".

Titus Burckhardt has also presented a commentary on the

above line of shaykh Ibn Mashish. He explains that the line
is part of the prayer of Ibn Mashish. He translates it thus:
O my God, he is Thine integral secret that demonstrateth Thee and
Thy supreme veil, raised up before Thee.

But let us first present some lines from a ghazal attributed

to Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti:

Ta’in ast gar az ‘etebaar maa o man ast

Ze ‘etebaar gozar kon ke maa o man hama ust

If you hold the conviction that there is the duality of ‘you and I’,
Then say goodbye to this conviction about ‘you and I’: All is He!

The term ta’in is a contraction of ta’ayyun (lit. specifying,

fixing, determining, assigning, appointing, deputing,
establishing; appointment, establishment, etc.) This implies
the first act of God of naming Himself. By naming
Himself, again and again, eternally all things come to be.
This is the passage from the presence of unity (ahadiyyah) to
the presence of oneness (wahidiyyah).

This self-identification or auto-determination introduces

the relationship between God and the world (see Ibn al-
‘Arabi: The Ringstones of Wisdom; p. xxiv-xxv in the
translation of Caner K. Dagli).

In order to make this understandable in only two lines, a

certain simplification in my above English translation of
the lines attributed to Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti has been

Before presenting the commentary of Titus Burckhardt it is

also necessary to discuss the role of the Universal
Mediator. The Muhammadan Reality implies that each of
the divine messengers has been an Universal Mediator.
Each of them has however played a somewhat different,
specific role of mediator compared to the others. This
becomes more clear when taking a look at the earlier lines
of the ‘prayer’ of shaykh Ibn Mashish:

Therein existeth nothing that is not linked to him, even as it was

said: Were there no mediator, everything that dependeth on him would
disappear! (Bless him, O my God), by a blessing such as returneth to
him through Thee from Thee, according to his due.

This is the commentary of Titus Burckhardt on these lines:

“According to the Sufis, the blessing or effusion of graces

(salaat) that God heaps upon the Prophet is nothing other
than the irradiation (tajalli) of the Divine Essence, which
eternally pours into the cosmos, of which Mohammed is
the synthesis. To ask for the blessing of God on the
Prophet is thus to conform with the Divine act and
intentionally to participate in it; also, tradition provides the
assurance that whoever blesses the Prophet attracts upon
himself the blessing of the entire universe”.

Shaykh al-Jili writes about his personal experience in regard

to the haqiqat al-muhammadiyya: “You should know - may
God protect you – that the perfect man is the pole (qutb)
around which evolve the spheres of existence/being from
the first to the last. He is unique from the beginning of
existence until eternity. He puts on different forms and
appears in many places of worship and that is why he is
given a name according to his garb of the time and not
corresponding to different garbs”.
“The original name that belongs to him is Muhammad, his
nickname is Abu’l-Qasim, the name showing his qualities is
‘Abdallah and his honarary title is Shamsuddin. In regard to
other garbs he has other names. In every epoch, he has the
garb which corresponds to his garb of the time. It is thus
that I discovered him in the form of my master shaykh
Sharafuddin Isma’il al-Jabarti”.

“I did not know that he was the Prophet, but I knew he

was my shaykh. That is one of his forms in which he
appeared and in which I saw him in Zabid [in Yemen] in
the year 796/1393-4. The secret behind this matter is that
Muhammad [Allah’s blessings and peace be with him] can
adopt each form he likes”.

“When the initiate sees him in the shape he had during his
own life, then he calls his by means of his own name.
When he is seen in another outward form and he knows he
is Muhammad [Allah’s blessings and peace be with him] he
calls him with the name of that outward form”.

Let’s proceed with the commentary of Titus Burckhardt on

these lines from the prayer of Ibn Mashish:

O my God, he is Thine integral secret, that demonstrateth Thee and

Thy supreme veil, raised up before Thee.

Titus Burckhardt says “that the Sufis envisage the ‘Reality

of Mohammed’ (al-haqiqat al-muhammadiyah), as the first
existential determination”.

“The ‘essential reality’ (haqiqah) of the Mediator, his root in

God, if it may be so expressed, is nothing other than the
first divine self-determination (ta’ayyun), Being (al-wujud), in
so far as it is in a certain fashion detached from Non-Being
(‘adam). This first determination, which includes all others,
is in itself a secret or a mystery; for how can the
Undertermined determine itself? On the one hand, the first
determination ‘demonstrates’ God, for the Undertermined
is incomprehensible; on the other hand it veils Him by
limiting Him in a certain manner; it reveals Him and veils
Him at one and the same time”.

Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri presents a list of about 40

different ‘names’ (or ‘attributes’?) of the haqiqa al-
muhammadiyya in mawqif 89. He also offers a commentary on
them, but does so in a different order than the list.
Sometimes he omits to comment on certain names, while
commenting on other names not present in the list.

Fernando Pessoa in his The Book of Disquiet writes:

How tragic not to believe in human perfectibility!

And how tragic to believe in it!

Human perfectibility is one of the about 20 different ways

shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi uses of pointing to the haqiqa al-
muhammadiyya. Both he and the Algerian shaykh ‘Abd al-
Qadir mention the insan al-kamil - the Perfect Human Being
as such.

According to the Spanish Sufi perfection implies to clothe

yourself with the Divine qualities. This similarity to God
has only to do with His qualities and not His essence,
because there is nothing like Him. This perfection becomes
greater when a human being is enabled to realize a larger
number of these qualities.
According to Fateme Rahmati’s commentary to the
antropological aspect of the haqiqa muhammadiyya, this
perfection is directly related to the manifestation of God
(tajalli). This means that the more perfect a human being is,
the more perfect will be the manifestation of the Divine in
him or her.

The only being in the universe in which God can manifest

Himself perfectly, is the human being. That is why Qur’an
2:30 describes a human being as the vicegerent of God
(khalifat Allah). The haqiqa al-muhammadiyya however, is the
perfect human form (al sura al-kamila al-insaniyya) containing
all essential truths of being. Annemarie Schimmel states
that it is the absolute theophany of the Divine Names [...],
as seen by the Divine Being.

That is why shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi describes the haqiqa al-

muhammadiyya as the ‘real human being’ (adam al-haqiqi) or
the ‘human truth’ (al-haqiqa al-insaniyya). He calls Adam the
‘manifest human being’ (al-insan az-zahiri) and the haqiqa al-
muhammadiyya the ‘hidden human being (al-insan al-batini).

Hidden? Manifest? The Perfect Human Being is someone

who has been enabled to realize God. In the insan al-kamil
the form of God (as-sura al-ilahiya) has been realized. The
word ‘form’ should not be interpreted in its usual sense. It
does not mean the outward form (sura) of something,
which is the opposite of inward meaning (ma’na).

Titus Burckhardt explains this concept thus: “The totality

of the Divine qualities constitutes what Sufism calls the
Divine form (as-sura al-ilahiya) by allusion to the saying of
the Prophet: ‘God created Adam in His form’. Thus the
word ‘form’ (sura) has here the meaning ‘qualitative
synthesis’ and not that of a delimitation. It is analogous to
the Peripatetic idea of eidos or forma as opposed to hyle or

This realization of the divine qualities has its reflection in

the soul and manifests itself in the form of spiritual virtues.
According to Titus Burckhardt its model is nothing other
than the Perfect Human Being.

Now we can understand the commentary of the Algerian

shaykh a little better. He presents this in his list of about 40
‘names’ of the haqiqa al-muhammadiyya under the heading of
the ‘degree of the form of God and the Perfect Human
Being without multiplicity’ (martaba al-haqq wa al-insan al-
kamil bila ta’did).

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir explains that it is called like this,

because the ‘form’ of God is the form that His knowledge
has of His Essence. The form of this knowledge implies in
its turn all that which unifies all the relations between the
different aspects of this knowledge. This knowledge has
two faces:

1. Seen from the point of view of multiplicity, the self-

determinations of His Reality constitute the states of
2. Seen from the point of view of unity, it points to His
knowledge of His essence.

According to Michel Chodciewicz it would, however, be

wrong to view the terms of the Perfect Human Being and
the Muhammadan Reality as interchangeable. The terms
haqiqa al-muhammadiya and insan al-kamil “are not purely
synonymous, but express different views of man, the first
seeing him in terms of his primordiality and the second in
terms of finality”.

What does this mean? The two concepts of haqiqa al-

muhammadiya and insan al-kamil can be considered in the
shape of a circle, combining a descending arc and an
assending arc.

Shaykh ‘Azizuddin b. Muhammad Nasafi has been asked

by dervishes to write a book in Persian about the Perfect
Human Being. Very often he starts his explanations by
addressing his readers by saying: “O, dervish!”

The sign of a true master is that he is also able to write in

simple, quite understandable terms. An example is that he
states that the perfection of the insan-e-kamil consists of
four things:

1. Good words
2. Good acts
3. Good manners
4. A deep inward knowledge.

This deep inward knowledge implies a verification of the

descending arc and the ascending arc. Shaykh Nasafi states
that the Perfect Human Being “both in his descent and
ascent, will have passed three heavens and three earths (i.e.
in the worlds of Mulk, Malakut and Jabarut) and then is
firmly established upon the Throne, that is, he will have
come from and returned to the universal intellect (‘aql-i-
kull). Thus the circle is completed, the universal intellect is
firmly established on the Throne and the Perfect Human
Being is also firmly established upon the Throne”.
The first that emanated from the Divine essence was the
universal intellect (also called first intellect). A hadith
informs us that “the first thing created by God was the
intellect”. God is One. There is a perpetual emanation
from the One. The universal intellect then acts as a link in
the descending arc between the One and the emanations
resulting from the universal intellect. These emanations
return to the One in the ascending arc.

Let us return to the Perfect Human Being. There are

different degrees in perfection of the insan al-kamil. Think
of the difference between Adam and the Prophet
Muhammad (s.a.w.). Each of the prophets can be seen as a
'word' of God. The seal of the Prophets has received the
collectivity of these 'words' as manifested in his perfection.
Shaykh Ibn Farid has the Prophet say: (Lloyd Ridgeon:
'Aziz Nasafi)

"There is no living thing that doesn't derive its life from me

and all desiring souls are subject to my will. Even though I
am the son of Adam in form, in him I have an essence of
my own, which testifies that I am his father".

There is only one insan-al kamil at one 'time'. Shaykh Nasafi

says that the Perfect Human Being is always in the world.
This is because God's attributes always exists. It is thus
necessary that the insan al-kamil who manifests perfection is
always in the world. Shaykh Nasafi writes:

"This Perfect Human Being is always in this world and

there is only one Perfect Human Being. This is because all
creatures are like one person and the Perfect Human Being
is the heart of that person and creatures cannot exist
without a heart. There is not more than one heart, so there
is not more than one Perfect Human Being in this world.
There are many wise beings in this world, but there is only
one heart. Other people are in the process of perfection,
each one has one's own perfection. When the unique wise
human being passes away from this world, another person
reaches this level and becomes the successor so that this
world is not without a heart".

Shaykh Nasafi adds that God only requires one Perfect

Human Being to display the entirety of His attributes.

This person has an immense responsibility. A quality of the

Perfect Human Being is to be the centre of the universe.
According to some verses of a ghazal attributed to Khwaja
Mo’inuddin Chishti, not everyone can become a second
Jesus (see: The Drunken Universe):

The Holy Spirit breathes his every breath into Mo'in.

Who knows? Maybe I'm the second Jesus.

Another name given by shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir to the

Muhammadan Reality is the First Intellect (‘aql al-awwal).
Philosophers refer to it as the universal intellect. The
shaykh explains that it is called like this, because it was the
first (awwal) to hear and understand (‘aqila) the creative
command kun (be!). Thus it was created created first, but it
was also the first created entity that was conscious of its
own essence. It is the means whereby the Muhammadan
Reality manifested itself in detail, i.e. as a differentiation of
the synthetic Divine knowledge.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir presents another philosophical

description of the Muhammadan Reality by using al-Qalam
al-a’la, which can be translated as the Supreme Pen. This
‘Pen’ symbolizes the Intellect that writes eternal ideas on
the ‘Well-guarded Tablet’ (the Qur’anic concept of al-lahw
al-mahfuz). It is the writer of the Divine Presence (katib al-
hadra al-ilahiyya) and writes because of receiving the Divine
command. The Algerian shaykh refers to this hadith: “The
first thing that God created was the Pen”. Elsewhere the
Prophet has said that the Intellect was the first thing
created. The Cosmic Pen can in fact be considered to be
the First Intellect, while the Cosmic Tablet is called the
Universal Soul.

The Supreme Pen has two functions (i.e. at-tastir wa at-

tadwin): Writing and making inscriptions or in more detail

1. Tastir: Writing; drawing of lines

2. Tadwin: Taking notes; to inscribe; collecting (using the
Well-guarded Tablet).

Qur’an 51:49 informs us: “And of everything We created a

pair”. The Pen and the Tablet are both mentioned in the
Qur’an. This pair is among the fundamental principles of
creation. The Pen is seen as an active principle. It has its
face turned towards the universe. When it has its face
towards God, it is receptive. It writes upon the Tablet and
the universe comes to exist as the written words of God.

The Tablet or Universal Soul is seen as the receptive

principle when facing the Pen. When facing the universe,
the Tablet is active. The Tablet has two faculties:

1. Knowing: It knows the details of the existence of all

things, because these are differentiated within itself.
2. Governing: Because of this knowledge it is able to
govern the destiny of every thing. It acts, says Sachiko
Murata in The Tao of Islam, by bestowing existence
upon what it knows.

In case you desire to learn more terms mentioned by

shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir as companion names to the
Muhammadan Reality, read the commentaries in the
literature given below.

Let us end with the short definition of al-Jurjani about the

haqiqa muhammadiya. He presents it in two short sentences.
In the first he mentions the first self-determination
(ta’ayyun awwal) that has been discussed earlier in this article.
His second sentence is quite remarkable. It shows the
extreme importance of the Muhammadan Reality. He says:

It is the Supreme Name (ism a’zam).

Select bibliography

1. Zahurul Hassan Sharib: The Culture of the Sufis; Sharib


2. Emir Abd El-Kader: Le Livre des Haltes (tr. A. Penot);

Editions Dervy.

3. 'Abd Al-Qadir al-Djaza'iri: Le Livre des Haltes (Kitab al-

Mawaqif) Tome 1 (tr. Michel Lagarde); Brill.

4. Emir 'Abd al-Qadir Al-Jaza'iri: Le Livre des Haltes (Kitab

al-Mawaqif) Tome III; (tr. Max Giraud); Albouraq.
5. 'Abd al-Kader: Le Livre des Haltes (tr. A. Khurshid); Alif

6. Michel Chodkiewicz : Le Sceau des saints. Prophétie et sainteté

dans la doctrine d’Ibn Arabî; Éditions Gallimard.

7. Titus Burckhardt: Mirror of the Intellect (Tr. & ed. By

William Stoddart); State University of New York Press.

8. Fateme Rahmati: Der Mensch als Spiegelbild Gottes in der

Mystik Ibn ‘Arabis; Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

9. Fernando Pessoa: The Book of Disquiet (ed. and tr. By

Richard Zenith); Penquin Books.

10. Titus Burckhardt: An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine (tr.

D.M. Matheson); Sh. Muhammad Ashraf.

11. Ibn al’Arabi: Mysteries of the Fast - Book 9 of the Openings in

Makkah (al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah) - (tr. Eric Winkel); The Ibn
‘Arabi Translation Project.

12. Sachiko Murata: The Tao of Islam – A sourcebook on gender

relationships in Islamic thought; State University of New York

13. Richard Gramlich: Islamitische Mystik – Sufische Texte aus

zehn Jahrhunderten; Kohlhammer.

14. Nasafi: Le Livre de l’homme Parfait (tr. Isabelle de Gastines);


15. Lloyd Ridgeon: ‘Aziz Nasafi; Curzon.

16. Al-Jurjani: Le Livre des D finitions; Albouraq.

17. Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavadi: The

Drunken Universe – An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry; Phanes