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Islamic Ideology (09 Jan 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Why the Beautiful and the Joyful Do Not Usually Appear in Islam’s Traditional Lists of Divine Names



By Daniel Thomas Dyer

October 12, 2018

I have often wondered why the Beautiful and the Joyful do not usually appear in Islam’s traditional lists of Divine Names. Most of the listed Names are in the Quran, and these two are not. So it might at first seem that God does not wish to be seen as beautiful or joyful.

However, the Quran does refer to the Divine Names as a whole as al-Asma ul-Husna, meaning “the Beautiful Names”. For example: To Hu belong the Most Beautiful Names [59:24].[i] So perhaps all the Names together manifest beauty, and we could infer from this something about the nature of beauty itself: it is what we recognise when we perceive a certain coherence or wholeness.

Looking at a few of the Names – the Subtle (al-Latif) or the Balancer (al-Adl) for instance – can help us appreciate this. Most of us would accept that subtlety and balance play a role in creating beauty, and we can assume the other Qualities do too. In fact Muslims have sometimes attempted to divide the Names between Names of Beauty (Jamal Names) and Names of Power (Jalal Names), because the more gentle ones in particular seem to evoke this beauty, whereas the more stringent ones evoke a sense of power. Taken altogether, perhaps there is a sense of overpowering beauty.

A variation of Jalal normally appears individually among the Divine Names: there is al-Jalil (the Powerful, Mighty, or Majestic). This tends to make the lack of a similar variant for al-Jamal appear all the more significant. Even though Muhammad said quite plainly, “God is beautiful and loves beauty” [ii], we might ask, Why does God not self-identify as the Beautiful?

Turning to the concept of God as the Joyful, the Quran does not name Allah as such. Allah is described as being pleased on a number of occasions due to the beautiful character or conduct displayed by men and women. Ridwan is one word used to describe Allah’s good pleasure, for instance: Return to your Sustainer well-pleased and well-pleasing [89:28].

Outside the Quran, we find Hadith Qudsi that powerfully communicates a sense of God’s joy. Rumi certainly sensed it, for he addressed God with these words, “You are joy and we are laughter,”[iii] and he makes it clear that joy is the result of witnessing God’s beauty. But despite these inspirational examples, the fact remains that the Quran is not explicit with regard to this quality of God either.

Could it be that these two qualities are best left to be discovered rather than pointed at too overtly? After all, no beloved should ever have to tell her lover she is beautiful, and the joy of love needs to be tasted in the secluded chamber of the heart. Perhaps it makes sense that Allah’s most ecstatic pronouncements are not found in the Quran but in the Hadith Qudsi, those intimate whispers from Allah to the beloved Prophet. Human experience teaches us that flaunting beauty or joy tends to diminish them. Is Allah’s shy reserve even meant to be a lesson to us?

Beauty and joy seem to require a certain modesty, and at the same time a kind of stepping back (perhaps out of ourselves) to perceive the Whole. The Divine Names could be said to form a sacred container in which we experience beauty – and within that beauty the joy awaits. After all, beauty and joy are– along with Love Itself – the nearest we can probably get to describing the Divine Essence (Dhat) hidden within the Divine Qualities. Both the Qualities and the Essence are denoted by the Name Allah, which is broken down etymologically by The Physicians of the Heart as follows:

The word “Allah” according to some scholars comes from the root Waliha, and this root combines the vast concepts of total love and being passionately beyond all constraints of mind. Combining these, we get the meaning “to fall madly in love, to utterly dissolve in an insane yearning.”[iv]

There is danger here—something so beautiful and joyful that it makes us lose control. God is described as the Infinitely Loving (al-Wadud) in the Quran, and it is also a Name that appears in all the traditional lists of Ninety-Nine. Again, that small voice asks, If God is explicitly named as the Loving, why not the Beautiful? Why not the Joyful?

Unhooked from love, perhaps beauty and joy are simply too heady. A sense of beauty based on an appreciation of the whole elevates us, but a partial and superficial appreciation – some bright, shiny object catching our eye –often leads to infatuation and fragmentation. A balanced relationship to beauty and joy probably requires some maturity that we ourselves are in a coherent, wholesome, genuinely loving state. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” starts to take on a mystical profundity: an encounter with true beauty is not an encounter with something out there, but with something coherent that pervades us too.

Rumi has plenty to say about beauty, how it can both elevate and abase us. In his Mathnawi, he describes Iblis (Satan) asking God for some temptation which he can use specifically against men. God offers various things which Iblis is moderately pleased with – possessions, money, wine, etc – but then woman is displayed to Iblis and he is finally satisfied:

Face and mole and eyebrow and lip like cornelian,

it was as though God shone forth through a subtle veil.

Iblis deemed that coquetry and light-springing gait to be like the

Revelation of Divine glory through a thin veil.[v]

[Mathnawi V, 960-61]

So Iblis sees the light of God shining through woman and can see how men will succumb to lust. But this does not lead Rumi into pious moralising on the sins of the flesh, and his solution for containing beauty is not to demand that women be covered up and closeted away. Rumi invites men to see women for who they really are rather than as sex objects:

Woman is a ray of God.

She is not just created,

she is creative.[v]

[Mathnawi I, 2437]

Men must learn to see more deeply and follow that “ray of God” home:

All that beauty, power, virtue, and excellence

have arrived here from the Sun of Excellence.

They, the light of that Sun, turn back again,

like the stars, from these bodily walls….[vii]

[Mathnawi V, 985-86]

“Make it your habit to behold the light without the glass,” Rumi advises a few verses later. Physical beauty is like a coloured glass through which the colourless Divine Light temporarily shines. That, men should develop the habit of seeing the Source of beauty: this is the container for beauty that Rumi recommends.

This is reminiscent of the “Parable of Light” in the Quran, which, interestingly, appears directly after verses concerned with the practicalities of sexual conduct. Nothing happens in the parable; it simply invites us to see more deeply through a series of protective containers:

God is the light of the heavens and the earth.

The parable of His light is,

as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp;

the lamp is enclosed in glass, the glass like a radiant star;

lit from a blessed tree – an olive tree

that is neither of the east nor of the west –

the oil of which would almost give light

even though the fire had not touched it: light upon light![viii]

[Surah An-Nur 24:35]

As for joy, the Mevlevis certainly understand the importance of containing it. Golpinarli, a twentieth century Mevlevi historian, highlights this when he describes Mevlevi elders cautioning devotees never to reveal their rapture (cezbe) – something they refer to as “spilling one’s blood outside”…

In Mevlevihood, it is strictly forbidden to reveal one’s rapture during a whirling ceremony, or when listening to a song in praise of the Prophet, or a musical improvisation, or during a recitation of the Quran, because such displays are also deployed the hypocrite. It is forbidden to shake, to harmonize with the melody, to sigh aloud, or even to let others know that one is weeping.[ix]

The whirling dervish has developed a certain reputation for rapture, so there is temptation for the dervish to play up to these qualities. Perhaps the sobriety described above has been developed to safeguard against this.

It could be argued that the human being is essentially driven by a love for beauty and the joy that it brings. Even the desire for power can be reframed as a love of beauty: it is the desire to control the manifestations of beauty. It is so easy for us to idolise these manifestations.  When we speak of God as beautiful, the mind may wish to form a picture; the alluring pull to reduce God to some sensual fragment is extremely strong. Joy is equally alluring: who doesn’t strive for happiness? How often are we driven to look in the wrong places for beauty and joy, to commodify, idolise, or feign them? Today’s consumer society is carefully designed to manipulate these failings of ours, offering various forms of pornography (subtle and not so subtle) to entice us. In the age of the image there are no containers at all, and our apparent freedom actually enslaves us.

We need containers of some kind, but we also need to be shrewd and compassionate as to what form they take. In the realm of sexual conduct, for instance, more often than not the containers need to be placed around men rather than women. Marriage is one traditional container, but perhaps a genuine relationship with the Divine Names and an ability to see more deeply are other, more subtle containers, which have all too often been neglected in the Muslim world in favour of a lazy, heavy-handed curtailing of women’s freedoms, which only exacerbates male misconduct and arrogance.

Perhaps true beauty needs to shed a little of its shyness in the Islamic world right now. It is needed as an antidote to the false beauty and joy of modern consumer society on the one hand, and the sterility of puritanical corruptions of Islam on the other.

I am reminded of two complementary scenes from Mevlavi life: One evening in a house somewhere in Konya, Rumi is sitting among a circle of women, sharing his wisdom in between choruses of sacred song by female musicians. Circling the house outside, the women’s men folk are keeping guard in case religious authorities may wish to intervene. A circle of power containing a circle of beauty, containing a point of purest joy.[x] But today at our Mevlavi gatherings, there are generally more women than men, and so when we practice standing Zikr, we have a circle of women containing a circle of men, containing our Shaikh and Shaikha. The possibilities for our time are different, and women can offer protection too.

[i] Trans. by Camille Helminski, The Light of Dawn, A Daybook of Verses from the Holy Quran

[ii] Hadith: Muslim #131

[iii] Mathnawi V, 3315; trans. by Kabir and Camille Helminski in The Rumi Daybook

[iv] The Physicians of the Heart, A Sufi View of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah, by Wali Ali Meyer, Bilal Hyde, Faisal Muqaddam, Shabda Khan

[v] Trans. by Reynold Nicholson

[vi] Trans. by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening

[vii] Trans. by Kabir Helminski (unpublished notes from a lecture)

[viii] Trans. by Camille Helminski, The Light of Dawn, A Daybook of Verses from the Holy Quran

[ix] Mevlevi Adab and Customs, by Abdulbaki Golpinarli (not yet published in English)

[x] See Rumi and His Friend: Stories of the Lovers of God, trans. by Camille Helminski and Susan Blaylock, p. 191

 

Source: patheos.com/blogs/livingtradition/2018/10/islam-containing-beauty-and-joy/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/daniel-thomas-dyer/why-the-beautiful-and-the-joyful-do-not-usually-appear-in-islam’s-traditional-lists-of-divine-names/d/117409





TOTAL COMMENTS:-   23


  • If you say that their actions are guided by the Light of God, that is good enough. We see the Light of God in their work.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/17/2019 2:30:05 PM



  • GM sb,

    You are mixing up love of God with "Light of God".

    You may see in the actions and deeds of great men such as Gandhi, Salman Taseer etc., that they are guided by the "Light of God" and love them for it.

    The distinction must however be made, that it is not man who sets the standard, but it is God, and when man/woman lives by the standard, you recognize the same and love the man/woman for it.

    The sense of beauty, harmony and proportion is also learnt from nature or from God's creations, and when you find the same beauty, proportion symmetry or harmony reflected in art, architecture or music, you appreciate it.

    Islamic way of appreciating excellence in man/woman is therefore also by praising Allah.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/16/2019 10:47:25 PM



  • Naseer sb.,
    Thanks for showing examples of how the phrase "Light of God" is used in the Quran.
    I had said, "For many of us however love of God is the same as love of beauty, same as love of goodness, same as love of righteousness. Naseer sb. however wants to restrict the meaning of "light of God" to suit his own narrow perspective." 
    So let me ask you now, do you see the light of God in Shakespeare, Mozart, the Taj Mahal, and Mona Lisa, as well as in Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Governor Salmaan Taseer or not?
    If you think it is a stupid question, you don't have to answer.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/16/2019 1:31:36 PM



  • GM sb lies. Here are the verses I am listing once again that make clear the meaning of "Light of Allah". The Quran, revelations, inspiration of Allah to guide mankind and show the right path, is the Light of Allah.
    (42:52) And thus have We, by Our Command, sent inspiration to thee: thou knewest not (before) what was Revelation, and what was Faith; but We have made the (Qur´an) a Light (nuran), wherewith We guide such of Our servants as We will; and verily thou dost guide (men) to the Straight Way,-

     (5:15) O people of the Book! There hath come to you our Messenger, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary): There hath come to you from Allah a (new) light (nuran) and a perspicuous Book, -

     (5:46) And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light (nurun), and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.

     (61:8) Their intention is to extinguish Allah´s Light (nura) (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).

      Note 2: Allah’s nur is His guidance

     (89:22) Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam, so that he has received Enlightenment from Allah (nūrin min rabbihi), (no better than one hard-hearted)? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah! they are manifestly wandering (in error)!

     (57:28) O ye that believe! Fear Allah, and believe in His Messenger, and He will bestow on you a double portion of His Mercy: He will provide for you a Light by which ye shall walk (straight in your path), and He will forgive you (your past): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

     (4:174) O mankind! verily there hath come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: For We have sent unto you a light (that is) manifest.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/15/2019 10:35:15 PM



  • Naseer sb. just offers further proof of his rudeness and boorishmess! And he does not quote any verses that define "the light of God"!


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/15/2019 1:46:19 PM



  • And I cited half a dozen verses which make clear that "Light of God" means "Divine knowledge and guidance". 

    It is upto GM sb now to establish an alternate meaning from the Quran if he can. If he cannot, then he has no basis for saying "Naseer sb. . . .  wants to restrict the meaning of "light of God" to suit his own narrow perspective." 

    Ih he says such things without a basis, then he is a windbag. That is an accurate description and not abuse. And the fact is that he has no answer and the wind is knocked out of him which is bound to happen for the windbag.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/14/2019 10:07:24 PM



  • Naseer sb. is back to his deplorable abusive ways! That usually means he has run out of arguments. The Quran says, "God is the Light of the heavens and the earth" 24:35, but it does not go on to define t"he light of God". Hence I said, "Naseer sb. . . .  wants to restrict the meaning of "light of God" to suit his own narrow perspective."


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/14/2019 1:51:41 PM



  • Dumb comment from Hats Off! Being compatible does not require prescience about the double helix.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/13/2019 11:54:37 PM



  • The windbag GM sb has his wind taken out and is running away. This is what he said: "Naseer sb. however wants to restrict the meaning of "light of God" to suit his own narrow perspective."

    So, go ahead and establish the meaning of "light of God" to prove that I am wrong.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/13/2019 10:37:35 PM



  • they mix thoroughly when horses fly and the prophet sits on the right hand side of god.

    if you looked closely you can even find the human genetic code in the Qur'an.

    actually watson crick borrowed the idea from the Qur'an.

    By hats off! - 1/13/2019 5:45:32 PM



  • Naseer sb., says, "It is the light that makes Truth stand out clear from Error (2:256)."

    2:256 says no such thing. His response is totally irrelevant to what is being discussed. It is doubtful if he understands anything that others say. He is more interested in boasting about his superior understanding. He is incapable of broadening his horizons.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/13/2019 12:46:09 PM



  • The Sciences and logic mix very well with the Qur'an 
    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/13/2019 2:08:40 AM



  • Can there be any doubt about the meaning of any verse or the meaning of any word from the Quran?  If there was any doubt or need to interpret, or a word in any verse open to multiple meanings, the Quran would be poetry and not Allah’s word. The proof of Allah’s attribute of Oneness or Tawheed is in every verse and word from the Quran which have only a single clear meaning. Unfortunately, man treats the Quran as if it were poetry and takes whatever meaning appeals to him!

     The light of Allah is not Allah Himself, nor a woman, nor beauty, but knowledge and guidance from Allah. It is the light that makes Truth stand out clear from Error (2:256). It is available only to the seekers of Allah’s light and the non-seekers remain in darkness which is why the metaphor of the lamp rather than that of the Sun.

    (2:257) Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever).

     The absence of Allah’s light is aptly described as darkness upon darkness as follows:

     (24:40) Or (the state of those who are without Allah’s light) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hands, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!

     Allah’s light is further explained as follows:

     Allah’s nur is His revelations or Books of scriptures

     (42:52) And thus have We, by Our Command, sent inspiration to thee: thou knewest not (before) what was Revelation, and what was Faith; but We have made the (Qur´an) a Light, wherewith We guide such of Our servants as We will; and verily thou dost guide (men) to the Straight Way,-

     (5:15) O people of the Book! There hath come to you our Messenger, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary): There hath come to you from Allah a (new) light and a perspicuous Book, -

     (5:46) And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.

     (61:8) Their intention is to extinguish Allah´s Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).

      Note 2: Allah’s nur is His guidance

     (89:22) Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam, so that he has received Enlightenment from Allah (nūrin min rabbihi), (no better than one hard-hearted)? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah! they are manifestly wandering (in error)!

     (57:28) O ye that believe! Fear Allah, and believe in His Messenger, and He will bestow on you a double portion of His Mercy: He will provide for you a Light by which ye shall walk (straight in your path), and He will forgive you (your past): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

     (4:174) O mankind! verily there hath come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: For We have sent unto you a light (that is) manifest.

     And you are wrong about art, poetry and music. I have a better understanding about these subjects than you. If the Quran is misquoted ever so slightly, I can catch the mistake. The same is with Ghalib’s poetry. You cannot pass off a non-Ghalib couplet claiming it to be Ghalib’s.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/13/2019 12:01:11 AM



  • Naseer sb. wants us to keep poetry and the Quran separate, walled off from each other. His mind is compartmentalized into God knows how many compartments! He is not only an expert on and a guardian of the Quran but he wants to keep the Quran separate from all our other intellectual and artistic pursuits. For many of us however love of God is the same as love of beauty, same as love of goodness, same as love of righteousness. Naseer sb. however wants to restrict the meaning of "light of God" to suit his own narrow perspective.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/12/2019 1:02:19 PM



  • The light of God is neither beauty nor a woman. It is knowledge from the divine that shows us the difference between right and wrong. It is what dispels the darkness of ignorance. The parable of light is not about “containment”. It is about enhancing the effect or about “Light upon Light”. What constitutes divine knowledge is:

    ·        The bare moral principle for which the metaphor is the olive oil which is self-radiant without fire touching it. The source is a tree which is neither from the east nor the west meaning the source of this knowledge is not the earth but the Heavens or divine,

    ·        The teaching is through words, and the words contain the message, preserve it and make the message clear. The metaphor for this is the glass whose function in a lamp is also to contain and protect the flame without diminishing or distorting its light.

    ·        The lighting of the lamp is the manner in which the Quran elucidates the bare moral principle making it come alive and as clear as light.

    ·        The meaning of light upon light is now very clear.

    Let us take an example:

    The bare moral teaching: Be kind to parents

    How the Quran teaches the same: Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (Quran 17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." (Quran 17:24)

     

    The commandments for the Islamic way of life are not just simple do’s and don’ts. These describe vividly the best way to follow the principles. The command describes the body language that is appropriate (lower the wings of humility) – once such a posture is assumed, can a person misbehave? The command says that even the expression of impatience such as saying uf (just a sound emitted which means the equivalent of “Oh No!”)is to be avoided at the mistakes the elderly often make. It says that only words of honour are to be used with parents such as “beloved father/mother”. And how beautiful is the prayer that is taught! "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood". The prayer reminds us of how our parents cherished us in our childhood which primes us or puts us in the frame of mind to behave towards them in the same kindly manner overlooking their infirmities, follies, forgetfulness, repetitiveness, sensitivity and many other afflictions of old age that require our constant attention, love, care and patience.

     

    The unparalleled excellence with which the Quran teaches us the moral way of living is at several levels. The first level is the principle itself which is illuminating in itself like the olive oil from a sacred tree. The second level is the use of imagery created with words and using the most effective devices of the psychology of influence such as priming and through reinforcement by repeating the message but in different ways and in different contexts to make the point clear and beyond doubt. The third level is the linguistic excellence and all of these within the framework of a complete and self-sufficient system of belief in a God who is the Creator, Sustainer, Helper, Law Giver, the source of all power, the Wise, the Aware, the Knower, the Just, the Merciful, the one who Rewards, the Forgiver, the Lord of the Day of Judgment and with many more attributes. The Quran sheds light on many truths but specially on the complete way of living a moral life and the source of this knowledge/light is Allah Himself. Verse 24:35 describes precisely this.

     

    The next verse says that “Lit is such a light in houses where God is remembered excessively” meaning in places of worship and not in places frequented by the poets to enjoy the beauty of a woman.

     

    To mix the divine with the profane is always the endeavour of Iblis. Recognise the difference between the divine and the profane or between what is from God and what is from Iblis. This is not easy Mr Watson going by the number of popes who have fathered illegitimate children and the Catholic clergy in general, immersed in sexual excesses of the worst kind.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 1/12/2019 12:38:28 AM



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