Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jalal or majesty and Jamal or beauty

Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) said: "Allah has 99 names and whoever patterns himself on them shall enter paradise." These names are referred to as Asma ul Husna — the most beautiful names. Says the Quran: "Allah has the most excellent names. So call on Him by His names and shun those who distort them. They shall soon be requited for their deeds". (7:180) The metaphysics of the Quran can be found in the 99 names that contain His essence. Some of these include: the Compassionate, the Beneficent,the All-merciful,the Sovereign, the Provider, the Restorer and the Just.

Islamic philosophers have broadly categorised these names into two groups, Jalal or majesty and Jamal or beauty. Majesty, the revelation of which ignites and consumes the worlds, is the rigorous, severe aspect of the Divine. Beauty, on the other hand, is the synthesis of mercy, generosity, compassion and all other beneficent qualities. These two work together to form the tapestry of the world, mysteriously connected with human beings.

Jalal and Jamal
Muslims use different formulae of repeating the names for spiritual solace. The names are repeated using a Ya before them like Ya Rahman or O, Merciful and Ya Rahim or O, Compassionate One'. Mercy represents God's fundamental attribute and is most commonly invoked.

An entire mystical theology has developed around these names ascribed to the Lord. It is these divine attributes that the Sufis attempt to realise within themselves. Sufi scholars explain that if you acquire traces of attributes such as severity and wrath without tempering them with justice, compassion and generosity, you might end up being harsh and arrogant. Only a perfect harmony of divine attributes can lead to the full blossoming of human nature.

Beyond gender
The Quran never refers to God as 'father'; It decries nature and idol worship, for it categorically states: "Naught in the universe is like Him". (42:11) Muslim theologians, therefore, aver that God has no gender, not even metaphorically. They attribute the use of a male pronoun for Allah in the Quran to the complexities of Arabic grammar, where pronouns are not gender-specific.

In the 13th century, two theological terms were developed to express the contrast between the perception of God's nearness and mercy and that of his distance and wrath. The term tanzih declares incomparability and tashbih, similarity. Both affirm that the world is nothing but a manifestation of the Divine.

Caring and merciful
Tashbih, literally means to declare something similar to something else. The gentle and merciful names of God are symbolic of His unity with Creation; of His concern for all life. They describe a God we can understand and love; who like a caring mother looks after the needs of those He has brought into this world.
The literal meaning of tanzih is to declare something pure and free of something else. This perspective affirms God's Oneness. It establishes that He alone is Real, and all created things unreal. The names associated with tanzih are King, Avenger, Praiseworthy, Slayer, and Independent. The King is majestic, awe-inspiring, inaccessible and all-powerful.

Prophet Muhammad reported that upon God's throne is inscribed: "My Mercy takes precedence over My wrath". Invoking Allah's Mercy is the central theme of Islamic thought. Divine Mercy is the bestowal of the good, the beautiful and the true. 

Sadia Dehlvi in The Times of India More Here

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