Cave and the Inscription by Shaykh Abdul Kareem al-Jili (qs)

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Text of Cave and the Inscription by Shaykh Abdul Kareem al-Jili (qs)

  • Translated by

    Nicholas Lo Polito, Phd

    With additional translation and commentary by

    Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi

    Al Kahf wa Raqeem

    The Cave and the Inscription

    An explanation of the formula

    Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem

    By Shaykh Abdul Kareem al Jili

    The Burhaniyya

    Path of Knowledge

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    Shaykh Abdul Kareem al Jili Imam Sayyidi Shaykh Abdul Kareem bin Ibrahim bin Abdul Kareem al Jili is also known as Qutb ad Din (the Pole of the Religion), which is an indication to his high spiritual status. He was born in 767 (1365 C.E) at Jil in the Baghdad and district passed away 832 (1428 C.E.). Most historians also add to his name the title Al-Qadiri, as he was part of the Sufi Order of Shaykh Abdul Qadir al Jilani. Shaykh Jili was influenced by Shaykh Abdul Qadir (who was his maternal grandfather) and references the Shaykhs work in his own books. He also spoke very highly of his own Shaykh Sharaf ad Din Ismail ibn Ibrahim al Jabruti, whom he refers to as the Red Sulphur in this current text. The Shaykh was a highly knowledgeable man in his own right and developed his own methodology of obtaining an understanding of Islamic metaphysics. He was a Master of the knowledge of Sharia, Tariqa and Haqiqa, or we could say Islam, Iman and Ihsan, or Theology, knowledge of the Unity of Allah, and Tasawwuf. Shaykh al Jili was also considered to be the spiritual student of Shaykh Muhyi Din Ibn Arabi. He crystallized and explained the teachings of the Shaykh al Akbar and made the teaching of the Unity of Being more accessible in his own books, particularly Al Insan ul Kamil, The Universal Man. Most of the People of Allah see that what Shaykh al Jili added to the teaching of the Shaykh al Akbar is more in the way of commentary and explanation rather than contradiction, as some of the scholars have said, for, as the Shaykh al Jili himself said All the contradictory truths are united in Al Haqq (the One Creative Truth)1.

    1 Quote is from the introduction of The Universal Man, by Titus Burckhardt.

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    The Cave and the Inscription

    A Commentary to the [Formula] In the Name of Allah the All Compassionate and Most Merciful2

    INTRODUCTION (1) Praise be to Allah, Who conceals Himself under the cover of His essence. Who exists within the heavy Clouds3 of His depths. Who is complete in His names and attributes. Who unites by His divinity the composition of His opposites. The One, in His loftiness. The numerical one Whose attributes encompass all that He fulfils.4 The Eternal that has no end. The Eternal that has no beginning. Who manifests Himself in every form and meaning in His suwar5 and verses. Who is evidently and undoubtedly beyond any empiricism and verbalisation and [faulty] imagination and rationalisation. Taking the forms of all the creatures He Himself has created.6 Who is Himself the form of the world [found] among His human beings, His animals, His plants and His inanimate objects, abandoned under the canopy of His glory,7 [clear of any concept] of continuity, discontinuity, opposite, equal partner, quantification, qualification, corporality, finitude, or limitation [imposed] by anthropomorphic [representations]8 of Him or [even] by their elimination.9 (2) [Like] a swimmer His names have swum immersing themselves in the oceans of His being without reaching His boundaries.10 He is pictured in every picture. Intimate with every intimate friend; a participant in every gathering; inaccessible in every way; supremely distinctive, completely unrestrained and completely bound,

    confined within every border, unlimitedly, holy and clear of His anthropomorphizations. (3) Space does not restrict Him but is not empty of Him. The eye does not see Him but cannot hide from Him. He is the original causal determinant (man ) of creation - [which is] an accident [derived] from an essence11 - and He is the reality (Haqqa) of that essence and no accident can diminish Him. He is the provider and origin of sustenance, which He lowered to the rank of what is called creation, so that He may carry out the authority more adequate to His own rank, in addition to what wisdom requires, and the authority of His decrees demands. (4) Unknown, [belonging to] the reality of the transcendent: I was an unknown treasure and I longed to be known; whereupon He made himself known to His creation by what is known of His instructions (Tarft). He made of creation a place for Himself to reside in, but it does not exceed Him. And He prescribed the name of Truth as a mode that has its origin in Him, that nothing would be beneficial for you without Him. And He prescribed that His divinity combine all the aspects of His reality. For He has established that His divinity should encompass His

    2 The Cambridge manuscript adds here the words, In Whom we seek assistance. 3 Am: it signifies Gods non-manifestation; in Al-Jl it is one of the degrees of existence. 4A reference to the Mutazilite doctrine that the attribute of Creator could not be applied to God before the action of creation took place. 5 Plural of sra (Quranic chapter). 6 An indication to the doctrine of Wahdat al Wujud. 7 An alternative reading has transcendence (tanzh). 8 Tashbh: anthropomorphization, or immanence. 9 Tanzh. In Al-Jl this term refers to the uniqueness of the Eternal in Its names, attributes and essence, and underscores the fact that nothing resembles the divine Absolute. 10 His names cannot contain Him. 11Jawhar the first substance or prime matter or the material substance in which the forms of all beings become manifest. It is utter darkness and utterly unknowable. Jawhar indicates the very essence of a thing. Language of the Future by Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi

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    oneness and His oneness have jurisdiction over His divinity. One comes across every aspect of His essence according to the rank into which He has manifested it, but nothing of all that exists can know it in its great beauty except He Himself. (5) I praise Him - Praise Him for Himself behind the canopy of his eternal divine mystery. Praise Him with the tongue of His perfect eternal beauty. [Praise] Him as He praises Himself in His [divine] state. As I am unable to praise Him I lean onto the honourable and the greatest; secret of the divine secret, the one who joins together, the most obscure; dot that is the eye12 of the dotted letters: Muhammad, lord of the Arabs and of the non-Arabs. Repository of the sanctuary of [all] truths and of [divine] oneness. Meeting place of the minutiae of transcendence and finitude. Revealer of the causal determinant (man) of beauty old and new. Form of the perfect essence. The eternal and the everlasting in the gardens of the [divine] attributes, eternally manifesting Himself in the sphere of divine affairs. May the salutations of Allah be upon him and to his leading people peace - those who adorn themselves with the pearls of those who [in their turn] annihilate themselves for his sake; those who with his teachings and his actions take stance on his behalf and in his place for him; and upon his family and his companions and his progeny and his offspring honour, respect, glory and exaltation. (6) And after this [let us now continue] - Indeed I have consulted Allah - may He be exalted - about compiling this book entitled The Cave and the Inscription as a commentary to the [formula] In the Name of Allah the All Compassionate and Most Merciful, induced by my Merciful [Allah] and in answer to a question by a noble master (and) brother, a [man] that possessed a sharp mind and a brilliant, well versed, firmly established intelligence. Also [engaged in] asceticism and isolation and [endowed] with truthful intention in [his] pursuits. [Namely] Imd Al-Din Yahy Bin Abi Al-Qsim Al-Tnisi Al-Maghribi, [great?] grandson of Al-Hasan13 son of Ali. I resisted and delayed progress towards what he desired. He did not tolerate hearsay and he did not lean towards anything but what he himself had propounded. The sincerity of his wish drove me to conform to it. And I have consulted Allah [and] in fear I have sought refuge in Him. I ask Him - may He be praised and exalted - that by [this book] He may benefit its public, those who will hear it [being read] and its readers. May He grant my request. (7) And it is expected of the people of Allah14- who are our leaders, the brothers who will look into this book - may Allahs peace and His favour be upon them - that they should scrutinise15 the meaning of every word until its explanation pleases them, from the perspective of [each words] interpretations, symbolic expressions, explicit, implicit and metaphorical meanings, forwarding and delaying.16 Observing the laws of poetry and the fundamentals of religion. And if they meet with one of the meanings of the oneness [of Allah] - to which both the [Sacred] Book and the Sunna bear witness - this is the reason why I have written the book. And if they understood from it the opposite of that, I am not responsible for such understanding. They should reject it and seek instead what I have written in conformity to the [Sacred] Book and the Sunna, and indeed Allah will confront them with that Sunna that among His creatures gave honour to Him Who has power over all things. Furthermore it is requested of them that they should strengthen us with their divine selves and accept us in spite of what is contained in this [book] of ours. And this is a minor strain that I have placed in their hands, hoping on the prayer of the saved or the watchful gaze of the Saint.If you find a fault, close the gap. Those who have no fault in themselves, are great