Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Divine Feminine in Islam

The Polarity of Divine Majesty and Beauty

Perhaps because I didn't have a mother; it had always been primally important for me to find the feminine in God and think of Allah as a loving mother( I can see the Mullahs fainting now). I used to enviously watch the nuns in my convent, bow in front of Mary.

But the  Islam which came to me then--- was garbed in an exclusively masculine robe--it took a lot of years of reading to peel of its patriarchal layers and discover the mysteries and symbols of divine in sufi poems and tomes. 

The hidden side of Islam, little known to the outside world, lives and breathes the values of interiority, the loving, forgiving, merciful Divine Presence that draws hearts closer, the infinite jamâl aspects of Allah's Beauty.

One of the most outright declarations of the Divine Feminine in all Sufi literature is in Rumi's Masnavi. In a passage praising the feminine qualities of kindness and gentleness, a passage that is increasingly well-known in these days of the resurgent Feminine, he says:Woman is the radiance of God, she is not your beloved.
She is the Creator—you could say that she is not created.
(Masnavi, I:2437)

Some of the key terms associated with the Divine are in the feminine gender in Arabic. Three of them are essential to understand the feminine dimension in Islam. 

The Hidden Divine Feminine in Names of Allah

Allah's Essence transcends all duality, all rationality, so it is beyond male or female. But even on the level of the Divine Nature, there are the roots of the masculine and the feminine.

On the highest level, Allah is at once Absolute and Infinite.

 These two attributes are the supreme archetypes of the masculine and the feminine. "Masculine" and "feminine" are not simply equivalents of the human male and female, since all men and women have elements of both masculinity and femininity within them. 

That Allah is Absolute is the principle of masculinity, and that Allah is Infinite is the principle of femininity.

But sufi's always interpreted the Creator as a Mother.

The renowned Sufi master Najm al-Din Kubra wrote of the Dhât as the "Mother of the divine attributes." 

According to a commentary on Ibn al-‘Arabî's Fusûs al-hikam, a hadith of Prophet Muhammad "gave priority to the true femininity that belongs to the Essence." 

Ibn al-‘Arabî himself wrote that "I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allah, keeping in view the Essence."

Allah has revealed Himself in the Qur’ân in the names of rigor and mercy, known as the names of Majesty (jalâl) and Beauty (jamâl). The Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving are names of mercy or Beauty, while the Enumerator and the Just are names of rigor or Majesty.

 On the level of the names are the principles of the masculine and the feminine: the names of Majesty are the prototype of masculinity, while the names of Beauty are the prototype of femininity.

One of Allah's names is al-Hakîm, the Wise; Wisdom is hikmah.

 In Arabic to say, for example, "Wisdom is precious," you could repeat the feminine pronoun: al-hikmah hiya thamînah, literally "Wisdom, she is precious."

There is a beautiful a hadith qudsi: "My mercy precedes My wrath" (rahmatî sabaqat ghadabî).

This has resonance with the forgotten Christian mystical tradition, in which Wisdom is personified as a woman, the divine Sophia, associated with the Virgin Mary.

The second term is rahmah (mercy), related to the most important name of God after Allâh: al-Rahmân, the All-Merciful, related to the word for 'womb', rahim, the source of life. The source of life is the Divine Mercy and the feminine aspect of it is very evident.

The third, the most remarkable of all, is the word for the Divine Essence itself: al-Dhât, which is also feminine. In that the Divine Essence is Beyond-Being, unmanifest and transcending all qualities, it may be understood as Feminine.

The Vision of God in Woman

Sufi poets ( heretically) wrote that you can see Allah in the eyes of a beloved.

In Tarjumân al-ashwâq, Ibn al-‘Arabî's collection of love poems composed after meeting the learned and beautiful Persian woman Nizam in Mecca, is filled with images pointing to the Divine Feminine.

The last chapter in his book Fusûs al-hikam relates that man's supreme witnessing of Allah is in the form of the woman during the act of sexual union;( yeah, he was close to being excommunicated quite a few times

For Ibn arabi contemplation of Allah in woman is the highest form of contemplation possible:

As the Divine Reality is inaccessible in respect of the Essence, and there is contemplation only in a substance, the contemplation of God in women is the most intense and the most perfect; and the union which is the most intense (in the sensible order, which serves as support for this contemplation) is the conjugal act.

Allah as Mother

In contrast to Christianity, Islam has never depicted God as Father. Such a comparison is completely outside the boundaries of Islamic discourse. However, Muslims theologians have always found it easy and natural to speak of the maternal qualities of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad was the first to use the example of mothers to illustrate Allah's mercy. After a battle, the Prophet and his Companions came upon a group of women and children. One woman had lost her child and was going around looking for him, her breasts flowing with milk. When she found her child, she joyfully put him to her breast and nursed him. The Prophet asked his Companions, "Do you think that this woman could throw her son in the fire?" They answered "No." He then said: "Allah is more merciful to His servants than this woman to her son." 

Another al-Bukhari hadith describes how during the Muslim conquest of Mecca a woman was running about in the hot sun, searching for her child. She found him, and clutched him to her breast, saying, "My son, my son!" 

The Prophet's Companions saw this, and wept. 

The Prophet was delighted to see their mercy, and said, "Do you wonder at this woman's mercy (rahmah) for her child? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, on the Day of Judgment, Allah shall show more rahmah toward His believing servant than this woman has shown to her son."

The Prophet's Feminine Soul

Prophet Muhammad's soul had a deeply feminine nature within;there was a Jesus like tenderness within him. He forgave his enemies; prayed for his foes and loved his wives.

Once his Companions asked him whom he loved most in the whole world, he answered it was his wife, ‘Â’ishah. They were surprised to hear him announce love for a woman, as this was a new concept to them; they had been thinking in terms of the manly camaraderie between warriors. So they asked him which man he loved most. He answered Abû Bakr, ‘Â’ishah's father, a gentleman who was known for his sensitive personality. 

These answers confounded the Companions who until then had been brought up on patriarchal values. The Prophet was introducing reverence for the Feminine to them for the first time.

Surah 109 in the Qur’ân, al-Kawthar, gives an especially revealing look into the Prophet's feminine soul. It was revealed because his enemies had been taunting him that he had no sons, only daughters, while they had been given sons to perpetuate their patriarchal ways.

 Allah revealed this message of consolation to the Prophet: "We have given thee al-Kawthar ... surely the one who hates thee will be cut off (from progeny)."

What is al-Kawthar? 

A sacred pool of life-giving water in Paradise—a profoundly feminine symbol. It represents a heavenly exaltation of the Feminine over patriarchal society. The name of Kawthar is derived from the same root as kathîr' abundance', a quality of the supernal Infinite, the Divine Feminine--the ever-flowing water. 

A sufi master once told me that when I miss my mother ----I should pray to Allah and ask for divine love because He is the ultimate Mother. 

We have been taught to approach the divine fearfully, always afraid; always in trepidation but that's not the sufi way. 

The sufi way is to ask for Allah joyfully and with longing.So next time you pray rather being afraid, ask for love; ask for grace. 


  1. Very well written and well researched, though I can't help but get a "Paulo Coelho" vibe from the whole thing.... In my most un-educated opinion, our God is a genderless God precisely because that image appears impartial to any gender.
    The concept of the "sacred female" is an intriguing one, but i'm afraid its just as real as that of the "Sacred male" :p .
    Nice blog btw, keep writing! :)

  2. Thank you for this beautiful post! :) We really are in need of a reappreciation of the Divine Feminine and her qualities.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post! We really are in need of a reappreciation of the Divine Feminine and her qualities.

  4. Well written article. I have been longing to see article like this. The sufi way of life is fantastic. You can see Allah in this world itself (realization thru your heart). He is closer to us than anyone. Keep it up.

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