The ‘Arsh (The Supreme Throne of God)
Literally meaning an arbor, throne, roof, or the horizon of something, the word ‘Arsh is the title of an elevated realm that envelops all the heavens and the earth, surrounds all systems, and which is the arena of the first manifestation of Divine Will concerning the material and immaterial worlds. While this elevated realm is known as the ‘Arsh, the area regarded as its opposite, that is, the ground, is the farsh (the ground, the floor). Scholars have clarified the meanings of and the differences between these two concepts by saying: “One ascends to the ‘Arsh while the Farsh is descended to,” and they have introduced the ‘Arsh and Farsh as two opposite poles. It is also due to this approach that while the line or spirals of ascension to the ‘Arsh have been described as ‘ arshiya (the spiral way or curves of ascension), the line or spirals of descent are known as farshiya (the spiral way or curves of descent).
It would be better to describe the ‘Arsh in a figurative sense as the horizon of the first manifestation of God Almighty’s Power and Grandeur. For this description also refers to God’s absolute freedom from matter, space and time. The Qur’anic statement, “ God’s establishing Himself on the ‘Arsh” is a reality whose meaning is not clear, because acts such as settling, sitting or being established, which are particular to the created and time and space, can never be contemplated in respect of God.
Ancient astronomy considered the ‘Arsh to be the ninth, most extensive firmament that surrounds all other firmaments. Astronomers also referred to the ‘Arsh as “the vastest firmament” and “the all-embracing firmament.” This approach could be viewed as accurate if we take into account the knowledge of astronomy in ancient times. Modern astronomy says different things. However, we should take into consideration what the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the opinions of the illustrious interpreters of the Qur’an say on the matter.
The ‘ Arsh is the arena where God manifests His religious commands and His commands for creation and the operation of the universe as the Lord of the worlds; it is the luminous “area” where His Power and Grandeur are initially manifested, and it is above all the realms of creation. The mysterious nature of this realm is known by God alone, and it is a comprehensive mirror of God’s Attributes of Glory and His Names that originate in His Acts. Moreover—if it is permissible to say so—this realm is the “workshop” where all living and non-living creatures are formed. It is therefore impossible for those whose scope of sight is restricted to physical eyes and therefore to the material or physical dimension of existence to comprehend this realm or “workshop.”
Another important topic relevant to this matter is God’s establishment of Himself on the ‘Arsh. Many opinions have been put forward to explain the phrase, Istawa ala’l-‘Arsh (25:59). First of all, the original word for self-establishing, istawa, literally means rising or standing upright, and the preposition used to express the direction of the act, ‘ala, means on, over, or from above. So, in addition to the meaning of rising above, this phrase also implies assuming or manifesting a position of superiority. When used for God, Who is absolutely free from having any resemblance with the created, it means God’s manifesting and making known His Sovereignty and demonstrating His Power and Grandeur. The ‘Arsh is in no way related to matter, time, space, or direction, and as a result no physical, material feature or notion can be applied to it.
Secondly, as God is absolutely free from matter, having a body, being contained in time and space, and being or having a substance, His self-establishing in no way resembles our sitting, settling, or being established. How can He or His Acts resemble the created or the acts of the created? This is explicitly stated in the Qur’an; while He is an all-overwhelming Power and an All-Merciful and All-Compassionate One Who holds all the heavens and the earth in His grasp of Power, and is nearer to each human being than their jugular vein as well.
Thirdly, even when we speak about impotent beings like us, saying, “The king has been established on his throne,” we mean that a person has become a sovereign, subdued the people, and begun to put their decrees into force. Thus, the Divine Being’s absolute freedom from anything physical or corporeal makes it necessary to understand such expressions for Him in the same, figurative sense.
From the earliest days of Islam all righteous scholars have approached such expressions from this perspective and described God in the way the respected Ibrahim Haqqi of Erzurum has described Him:
He is neither a body nor a substance,
nor is He an accident, nor of matter.
He does not eat and drink, nor is He contained by time.
He is absolutely free from change, alteration, and transformation,
and from colors, and having a shape as well—
these are His Attributes in the negative.
There is no opposite, nor peer, of my Lord in the universe;
He is the All-Transcendent and exempt from having a form.
This approach is one on which the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Muslim scholars agree, and the creed of Ahlu’s-Sunna39 is based on this. The earliest scholars did not argue about such subtle matters and even avoided answering questions concerning them. When asked about God’s establishing Himself on the ‘Arsh, the respected Imam Malik40 thought for a short while and answered: “ God’s establishing Himself on the ‘Arsh is a reality and the acceptance of it is incumbent on us. However, its very nature is incomprehensible, and asking about it is an innovation in the Religion.”41
However, when, in later times, certain trends of thought emerged among Muslims under the influence of foreign beliefs and philosophies, and in the face of false interpretations that imply corporeality, time, and place for God Almighty, scholars felt obliged to explain in what sense the Qur’an uses such words as istiwa and have tried to protect the masses against false ideas. They explain the meanings and implications of istiwa as follows:
- Istiwa alludes to the faultlessness of the order of creation and the perfection of the Sovereignty or Domination that has established and continues this order. The fact that wherever the word istiwa is used in the Qur’an there is also reference to this Sovereignty and Administration proves this.
- By reminding us of the usual Divine practice that is the true origin of everything and every event in the universe, the Qur’an implies that after God Almighty initially created the universe in a miraculous fashion, without applying any physical causes, He introduced the “natural” or physical causes into all events as veils before Divine Dignity and Grandeur.
- Just as all things and events come into existence through the manifestations of God’s Knowledge, Power, and Will, they also subsist by His Authority and Subsisting, Which manifest themselves on and through the ‘Arsh.
- Istiwa also means invading and surrounding completely. Thus, with this word it is emphasized that God’s Sovereignty is so forceful and encompassing that It can never be compared to human sovereignty or management.
- The word istiwa also implies that although we are infinitely distant from God Almighty, He sees and knows everything perfectly from high above, yet is nearer to us than ourselves.
Reminding us of these meanings, respected scholars have tried to protect Muslims against false notions of God in connection with corporeality, time, and space and against falling into misguidance, equipping us with important arguments for thinking correctly. We are thankful to them for their sincere efforts. However, it would be more proper to act like Imam Malik if false assertions made by misguided sects are not in question, and refer the whole of the truth to the Knower of the whole Unseen.
Some of the illustrious interpreters of the Qur’an have put forward the idea that the ‘Arsh and Kursiyy (the Supreme Seat) are the same and both constitute the arena where God’s Attributes of Glory and Divine Sovereignty are manifested. However, in addition to many verifying scholars, a hadith mentioned in al-Bidaya wa’n-Nihaya by Ibn Kathir and certain other reports referred to either the Prophet himself or his Companions show that the ‘Arsh and Kursiyy are different arenas of manifestation. The hadith and reports in question even state that the ‘Arsh is a million times larger than the Kursiyy. The ‘Arsh is more encompassing in comparison to the Kursiyy, to the same extent the Kursiyy is greater than the entire corporeal universe. In explaining the vastness and comprehensiveness of the ‘Arsh, it is said that the earth, the heavens, and all elevated realms such as Paradise, Hell, Sidratu’l-Muntaha and al-Baytu’lMa‘mur are encompassed by the ‘Arsh.
However, the vastness and comprehensiveness of the ‘Arsh should not be thought of on account of itself, but on account of its being the first arena where God Almighty’s Grandeur and Sovereignty are manifested. What gives it the greatest value and makes it unequalled among the elevated realms is that it is a mirror to overall Divine manifestation.
On account of being the primary arena where Divine Attributes of Perfection and the Names that originate in God’s Acts are manifested, the ‘Arsh also has a “relative” infinitude. In one respect, all other existent things and beings and all events start and end here. Time, space, and direction are not attributable to it. It is above all such things. Therefore, the ‘Arsh encompasses both this world and the next.
Even though we are unable to perceive exactly all these or other similar realities, we believe in the existence and features of the ‘Arsh in accordance with how this arena is mentioned in the Qur’an and the Hadith; we also admit that we are unable to comprehend its true nature and refer this knowledge to the Knower of the whole Unseen. When we think of the ‘Arsh, we recall the first arena of the manifestation of God’s Attributes of Glory and the most luminous mirror of the Divine Names that originate in Divine Acts, and feel that we are gratified with the shadows that It sends over us from other worlds.
The ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy are above all other things and have a nature that transcends all time and space. However, it is not the ‘Arsh Itself which gives It this nature; since this nature is given to It by the Sovereign of all eternity, Who is absolutely free from time and space, it is of a relative character.
Even though the mind always has great difficulty in comprehending such extremely subtle matters, and the sciences admit their inability to comprehend them, the spiritual intellect, which is always turned to God, somehow arrives at certain truths concerning these matters and can find many things which give it some sort of contentment. Even though human beings suffer from a lack of words to express such truths, they can listen to different things from the tongue of their hearts, voice what they have grasped with praise and glorification of God, and desire to reach further and further truths. However, they should remain within the limits of their capacities and their scope of perception in the face of the matters that they are unable to grasp, saying: “(The admission of one’s) incapacity to perceive Him is perception itself.”
In fact, a believer is a person of fairness and justice who acknowledges in advance that there may be many things that they cannot know in addition to that which they know. Even though they believe that their heart is so vast as to be able to contain worlds, they are aware that one of the most important depths of this faculty is knowing its innate deficiencies and limits of comprehension. For this reason, the heart continuously admits its inherent impotence and poverty, never removing its eyes from the Knower of all that is Unseen.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi42 made remarkable considerations about the ‘Arsh. He wrote:
The ‘ Arsh (The Supreme Throne of God) is a combination of the Divine Names the First, the Last, the All-Outward, and the All-Inward. With respect to the Name “ the All-Outward,” Which forms one dimension of this combination, the Supreme Divine Throne is the envelope that encompasses all things and the universe with whatever is in it. With respect to the Name “ the All-Inward,” It is like the heart of creation or the contents of the envelope, which is the universe. When viewed with respect to the Name “ the First,” the Supreme Divine Throne marks the start of the creation, which is indicated by: His Supreme Throne was upon the water (a fluid) (11:7). With respect to the Divine Name “ the Last,” It refers to the finality of existence, which is implied in the hadith: “The ceiling of Paradise is God’s Supreme Throne.” Therefore, due to its share in the manifestations of the four Names mentioned, we can view the ‘Arsh as a combination that embraces the universe from all directions.43
In addition to this consideration, Bediüzzaman puts forward another view of the ‘Arsh, which is as follows:
In respect of His Lordship (that is, His creating, upbringing or raising, maintaining, and domination), God Almighty has made the earthly creatures an ‘arsh, (which can be viewed as the projection of the Supreme Divine Throne [al-‘Arshu’l-‘A’zam] and regarded as an imperial medium for His control of the universe or for the conduction of His decrees – FG). He has made the air an ‘arsh for His commands and will, the light an ‘arsh for His knowledge and wisdom, the water an ‘arsh for His mercy and grace, and the earth an ‘arsh for His giving of life, reviving, preserving, and providence. He circulates three of these elements around earthly creatures.44
If the Ka‘ba is a projection or mirror of something from the realms beyond, if humankind is the polished mirror of another thing, and the physical realms are the garden or vineyard or the green house of metaphysical ones, then it is quite natural that the elements of air, water, light, and earth are mirrors or projections of some things or truths that belong to the elevated realms.
The views of Sufis about the ‘Arsh are somewhat different. Even though they do not reject the considerations of the interpreters of the Qur’an and theologians, in addition to mentioning it with such names as the Universal Intellect, the Universal Soul, and the Divine Signs of Creation, based on the verse, His Supreme Throne was upon the water (a fluid) (11:7), they have tended to call it the Supreme Throne of Life and the Supreme Throne of Livelihood. Sufis have also given the ‘Arsh the title the Supreme Throne of the All-Merciful because it surrounds all particles, all compounds, all the heavens, the earth, and all the realms of existence, and the title the All-Supreme Throne due to its being a mirror of the truth of the Supreme Preserved Tablet. If they have also called the heart of a believer the Supreme Throne of God, they have done so because they have viewed it (the heart) as the Home of God. This approach is widespread among the Sufis. While the respected Ibrahim Haqqi of Erzurum says,
The heart is the home of God; purify it of whatever
is there other than Him,
So that the All-Merciful may descend into His palace at nights.
another saintly friend of God speaks as follows:
The heart of a believer is the Supreme Throne of the All-Merciful;
breaking it is a sin and transgression.
The Kursiyy (The Supreme Seat of God)
Literally meaning a special place to sit, a chair, seat, or base, al–Kursiyy is the title of a spiritual realm which surrounds the universe and has the position of being the base upon which the ‘Arsh (the Supreme Throne of God) stands with its “two legs.” According to illustrious interpreters of the Qur’an, the Kursiyy is the realm where God’s commands are manifested and implemented, and it has a position below the ‘Arsh (the Supreme Throne). Every thing and every being in the heavens and on the earth, all heavenly bodies, with the inhabitants of each, are encompassed by al-Kursiyy. For this reason, humankind, all other living and non-living beings, and all realms are strictly bound to and dependent upon the commands and laws manifested here. All the laws belong to the Owner of the Kursiyy, Who dominates everything; all commands issue from Him, and the care and maintenance of all of creation are the result of His being the Lord. Whatever happens and whatever characteristics there are in the entire universe are with His permission and through His creation, and He is ever aware of all of these. Whatever happens and whatever there is in the heavens or beyond the heavens—be it of a primary or secondary degree, universal or particular, originating from the soul or senses, secret or manifest—God has absolute knowledge of all at the same instant that He is aware of the feelings that occur in our hearts, the thoughts that emerge in our minds, and the blood that circulates in our veins. God sees and maintains whatever He has created, He controls and directs it, and changes and transforms it—He does all this, but, as stated in the Qur’an (2:255), He is never wearied nor does slumber or sleep seize Him. He makes the ‘ Arsh a veil of throne before His Attributes, and the Kursiyy a platform for His practices as the Lord. He creates what He creates, and continues the cycle of life and death, and both observes and makes observed through the Kursiyy that He is the All-Living and the Self-Subsisting by whom all subsist.
From the earliest interpreters of the Qur’an to contemporary ones, Muslim scholars have put forward the following views concerning the Kursiyy:
The Kursiyy is the seat of absolute authority that establishes and directs time; it is above the heavens and below the ‘Arsh and it surrounds the entire universe. It is also mentioned as the base upon which the ‘Arsh stands with its “two legs.” Its building-blocks are different from the foundation stones of the corporeal realm; they are neither atoms nor electrons, nor anti-atoms or anti-electrons; they are not even ions. It is a metaphysical entity whose true nature is only known by God. It is a body but not like the bodies we know; it has a nature but this is beyond our scope of perception. It is neither a corporeal body, nor a substance, nor an accident (something additional to a substance or an essence). However, in saying this concerning the Kursiyy, we should bear in mind that in their absolute sense all these attributes, that is, being neither a body, nor a substance, nor an accident, and being beyond the scope of our perception, are some of God’s Attributes in the negative. So using them for God in their absolute sense and for certain other beings or entities in the relative sense is a matter of belief.
The Kursiyy has a transcending nature, which is also viewed in connection with creation and spatial existence at the same instant that it surrounds the entire universe; this is, in the language of the interpreters of the Qur’an and using an approach close to that of Bediüzzaman to the ‘Arsh, both encompassing and encompassed. As for its Owner, neither time, nor space, nor directions are in question for Him.
He is neither in the heavens nor on the earth;
Neither on the right nor on the left; neither before nor after;
He is absolutely free from any direction.
So He is never contained in space.
The ‘Arsh is His, so is the Kursiyy, but the All-Transcending One’s relations with these are not in the forms of sitting, being established, settling, covering a space, or needing. God Almighty is never like any created thing or being. His Existence is all-substantial; It is true existence and He exists by Himself. In the language of the scholars of Islam, God is the Necessarily Existent One. He has neither an opposite nor a peer, neither an equal nor a rival. The Kursiyy is, in a sense, the realm of the manifestation and implementation of His Commands and it is one of the truths which underlies a nature that we cannot know or comprehend; it is an elevated station that stirs up our feelings of amazement. Even though many opinions or considerations have been put forward concerning the Kursiyy, all of these are far from being able to describe it with its true, exact nature. They are not wrong or misleading, but it cannot be claimed that they are its exact or complete description.
The Kursiyy has also been viewed as the arena of the manifestation of all attributes of existence in the corporeal realm. All elevated realms and all the formations, changes, alterations, transformations, and instances of assuming color and shape in them occur according to the commands and rulings manifested therein. Atoms and particles revolve according to a program of Destiny under the direction of the commands and will that are reflected from the Kursiyy; the stars and heavenly systems continue their existence in perfect harmony according to the principles or rulings manifested in the Kursiyy. The angels and spirit beings fulfill the commands of the creation and operation of the universe with their eyes fixed on the Kursiyy. In short, all the parts of existence, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, are made to act by the commands that issue from or through it, they preserve their accord through their connection with it, and continue to live turned to it, even though they do not abandon considering themselves in one way or another.
Those who approached the Kursiyy from the perspective of the astronomy of Ptolemy viewed it as “the horizon of stationary realms” in the eighth layer of the heaven, and the ‘Arsh as “the all-encompassing map” of the ninth heaven. This was what they were able to conclude according to their horizon of knowledge. According to the statements of the Sultan of Prophets, upon him be peace and blessings, neither the ‘Arsh nor the Kursiyy, nor the realities concerning them are of the kind that we can approach according to our criteria; we are not able to comprehend them. Endowing them with a nature, one way or another, is beyond our capacity. In explaining the superior nature of the Kursiyy, the pride of humankind, upon him be peace and blessings, says: “In relation to the Kursiyy, all of the worlds are like a ring cast on the desert.”45 He said so only to draw attention to the incomprehensible vastness of the Kursiyy, to its function as the arena of the manifestations of and as a mirror to God’s commands, and to its being God’s Supreme Seat, where there can never be a question of God sitting or of it covering space. It therefore means that there is nothing below the ‘Arsh more sublime and grand than the Kursiyy.
However, some leading scholars have viewed the ‘Arsh as related to time and the Kursiyy as related to space, although they have considered the former with its dazzling magnificence and the latter with its grandeur. If this approach comes from relating time and space each to an established, unchanging truth, there can be no objection to this and it is not incompatible with the fact that the ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy are both beyond time and space. Moreover, if it is indicated that the ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy are only relatively, not absolutely, beyond time and space, this cannot be criticized either. For absolute freedom from time and space is one of God’s Attributes expressing His absolute exemption from any restriction and resemblance with the created; nothing else can have a share from this freedom that is essentially His.
To sum up: The Kursiyy (God’s Supreme Seat) is an arena of the manifestation of Divine Sovereignty and Rule, a special mirror of God’s all-encompassing Knowledge, a spiritual means for our minds to sense His infinite Power, Will, and Knowledge, and the immaterial, luminous Seat of the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
Just as the Supreme Ka‘ba is called God’s House as an expression of its supreme relation to God Almighty, the ‘Arsh has been called ‘ Arshu’r-Rahman (The Supreme Throne of the All-Merciful) and the Kursiyy, al-Kursiyyu’r-Rabbani (The Supreme Seat of the Lord) due to the sublimity of their relations, the vastness of the meanings they contain, and the profundity of their functions. Whatever we call them, the main point is to express the grandeur of Divinity and the fact that all of the worlds, great or small, are under His absolute control and direction. If we do not approach the matter in this way, but become involved in unnecessary detail, we will overstep our limits and show disrespect to truths whose exact nature we are unable to know.
This is the Kursiyy that encompasses all the worlds; it is a transcending, incomprehensible Seat of the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. All things and their basic characteristics don the body of existence and continue to exist by Divine Command, Will, and Power, Which are manifested in it. We can neither know the exact nature of the Kursiyy nor grasp the Divine mysteries that are involved here. The Sufis have viewed the Kursiyy as the horizon of the manifestation of Divine Power, the arena for the reflection and implementation of God’s injunctions and prohibitions as the Lord, and the first ground for the rise of Divine Names which originate in His Acts. Viewing it thus, the Sufis have regarded turning to that Power in awareness of our innate impotence and poverty as the mystery of being undefeatable; they have accepted sensitivity in obedience to His injunctions and prohibitions as faithfulness to the Owner of the Kursiyy, and felt and experienced all of existence as the manifestations of Divine Names and the harmony they form.
Sidratu’l-Muntaha (The Lote-Tree of the Furthest Limit)
Sidr literally means Arabian cherry; it also means astonishment or something that is spectacular. Sidratu’l-Muntaha denotes the limit, the final point, the furthest boundary of the realm of contingencies. Some have interpreted it as the final point which death-bound beings can reach. Based on certain Prophetic sayings and reports from either the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, or from some of his Companions, the illustrious interpreters of the Qur’an depict Sidratu’l-Muntaha as a blessed tree which exists to the right of God’s Supreme Throne and below which flow the rivers of Paradise, which have been promised to the God-revering, pious. In order to emphasize the extent of the area it covers, our master, upon him be the most perfect of blessings and peace, says: “If a horseman were to gallop for seventy years across its shadow, he would not be able to traverse it; a single leaf of it can cover an entire nation.”46 If we use greater units of measurement to express the extent of the area it covers, we would not be exaggerating. For the Sidra marks the farthest boundary of the realm of creation; here it meets with the realm of the initial manifestations of Divine Commands. The realm of contingencies ends here. The branches, shoots, and leaves of the huge tree of creation, which extends in all directions, end here. Also, the views of saintly people who deepen in spirituality and those with progressive hearts who can penetrate the inner dimension of things can extend only this far. The perfected ones, who are always careful of where they put their feet and how they take each step on the way to God, stop at this boundary, without being able to take a single step further. Everyone breathes with amazement here. For what lies beyond is included in the realm of the absolute Unseen, which none other than God can know.
Another meaning of Sidratu’l-Muntaha is that it signifies such a horizon of astonishment and amazement, and such a peak of passion and stupor that “there is neither space in it nor heavens and earth; and no mind can grasp this state” (Süleyman Çelebi47). Of the many heroes of spirituality that have emerged from humanity from the beginning of existence, none other than the honor and pride of humankind, and the peerless of time and space, upon him be the most perfect of blessings and peace, has ever been able to rise as far as that horizon or reach that peak. Those who have reached it in their spirit have been dazzled and bewildered, being stuck in amazement and stupor. It was only the pride of humankind whose sight did not swerve, nor did it go wrong; indeed, he saw one among the greatest signs of His Lord (53:17–18). The point where he reached was Sidratu’l-Muntaha, which, in the words of Bediüzzaman, marks the sacred horizon between the absolutely Necessary Existence and contingency. The first and last traveler who reached this peak is the Seal of Prophethood, for whose sake the worlds were created. No one preceding him and no one succeeding him has a share in this status. How beautiful is the following couplet by Süleyman Çelebi:
No one who came before him attained this highest status;
no one has ever been favored with this height.
It is not possible for us to be able to imagine either the depths of Prophet Muhammad’s spirituality or the things he saw and heard or his experiences. We preserve our perceptions and experiences and try to understand them according to the interpretations of purified, saintly scholars.
According to some Sufis, Sidratu’l-Muntaha is the horizon where God Almighty favors the outer and inner worlds of His noble, distinguished servants and their spirits, souls, minds, imaginations, and original natures with the manifestations of, respectively, His Names the All-Outward and the All-Inward, and of His proper Name, His Attribute of Lordship, and His Names the All-Merciful and the Ultimate Truth. It is also the peak where God manifests His Attributes of Glory. No matter how profound and extensive emotions may be, all human information, knowledge, sensations and perceptions end at the Sidratu’l-Muntaha and cannot go beyond. Any claims to have gone beyond this horizon only relate to particular spiritual experiences in certain exceptional states of spiritual intoxication, and have therefore no objective value.
Al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur (The Prosperous House)
Literally meaning the prosperous house or house of worship, al Baytu’l-Ma‘mur is a luminous construction above the firmanent which, as stated in a hadith, is visited or circumambulated every day by seventy thousand angels48—the figure denotes multiplicity so it may actually be seventy million or more; it is the heavenly counterpart of the Ka‘ba, which exists on the same line. The angels who visit or circumambulate it once will not be able to have another turn to do so again. Both this house and the Ka‘ba— God’s House on the earth—are prosperous due to the deep respect which the angels, spirit beings, and many human beings and jinn show them; the former is visited by the angels and spirit beings and the latter by angels, spirit beings and many human beings and jinn.
Al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur is one of the sacred places by which God swears in the Qur’an (52:4). The other place of the same sacredness is God’s House, which, as its reflection on the earth, is the heart of the earth and the pupil of the Secure Town—Makka. The former is visited by heavenly beings, who go round it, while the latter is visited and circumambulated by those on the earth. However, it cannot be said that those who go round the former are not also moths that flit around the latter. Neither can it be said that the “heavenly” beings who live on the earth do not offer their respects to the heavenly Prosperous House. Those who visit and go round these two Houses, from which God never removes His “eyes,” have special regard for the Ultimate Truth, Who returns their regard with particular compliments and favors. Those who happen to visit these blessed places are considered to be God’s guests, and mean to abandon themselves in a cataract of revival. It is hoped from God that they will be saved from the causes of eternal loss, such as unbelief and misguidance. Those who reach al Baytu’l-Ma‘mur and visit God’s House on the earth after an endeavor inspired and compelled by belief do not die misguided.
The most reliable sources provide information that al-Baytu’l Ma‘mur is above the heavens. Some of the Companions and respected interpreters of the Qur’an say that until the end of Prophet Noah’s Messengership, upon him and our Prophet be peace, it existed where the Ka‘ba is or was bound to it with a spiritual tie. However, since the people of that time did not pay it the required respect, when the Flood began God lifted it to a heavenly point on the same line as the Ka‘ba. Concerning such an assertion with respect to the Unseen, we can say nothing but: “True knowledge is with God.”
Some of the earlier scholars’ view that al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur is the Ka‘ba must have arisen from a confusion of the original with its projection and been based on seeing the positions where the Qur’an was sent down for the first and second times as one and the same.
There have been a few people who have put forward that the first position where the Qur’an was sent down first from the Supreme Preserved Tablet to the heaven is al-Baytu’l-‘Izza—the House of Honor. This must be due to the fact that since the position where the Divine Word was first embodied is regarded as a site around which sacred beings go, al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur has been identified with and therefore called al-Baytu’l-‘Izza.
Some Sufis have regarded al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur as the heart of the heroes of “ subsistence by and with God.” As can also be witnessed in some approaches to the ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy, some Sufis have considered what is projected or relative as the original itself. In fact, Sidratu’l-Muntaha is related to al-Baytu’l-Ma‘mur, and al-Baytu’l Ma‘mur is related to the Ka‘ba, and all of these are related to the heart of a believer in varying degrees; the heart is, in one sense, both an ‘Arsh and a Sidra and a Baytu’l-Ma‘mur, provided it is genuine, and not false.
O God! O Illuminator of hearts! Illuminate our hearts with the lights of knowing You and pour upon us out of the knowledge of those who have proper knowledge of You! Bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the master of those who have proper knowledge of You, and on his Family and Companions, who were sincere and reached the final point of their journey to meet with You.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
39 Ahlu’s-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a is the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who follow the Prophet’s and his Companions’ way in thought, creed, and action. (Tr.)
40 Imam Malik ibn Anas (711–795): He has born, lived, and died in Madina. He was one of the most highly respected scholars of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and the Maliki School of Law was named after him. (Tr.)
41 al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li-Ahkami’l-Qur’an, 7:219–220.
42 Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1877–1960): One of the greatest Muslim thinkers and scholars of the 20th century. He wrote about the truths and essentials of the Islamic faith, the meaning and importance of worship, morality, and the meaning of existence. He is very original in his approaches. Sözler (“The Words”), Mektubat (“The Letters”), Lem’alar (“The Gleams”), and Şualar (“The Rays”) are among his famous works.
43 al-Mathnawi an-Nuri – Seedbed of the Light (trans.), New Jersey, 2007, p., 150.
44 The Letters (Trans.), New Jersey, 2007, p., 316.
45 Ibn Hibban, as-Sahih, 2:77; ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, as-Sunna, 1:247.
46 at-Tabari, Jami‘u’l-Bayan, 15:10; Ibn Kathir, Tafsiru’l-Qur’an, 3:20.
47 Süleyman Çelebi (1351–1422) is the writer of the famous Mawlid (whose original name is Wasilatu’n-Najat (“The Means of Salvation”). He lived in Bursa, Turkey. Mawlid, which was composed and is widely read in Turkey on certain occasions is a long poetical history of Prophet Muhammad’s life and his matchless virtues and achievements. (Tr.)
48 ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, al-Musannaf, 5:28–29; Ibn Kathir, Tafsiru’l-Qur’an, 3:13, 24.