Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani on the Elements


While reading Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani’s ‘The Secret of Secrets’ (translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti) I came across the following ayat (verses) from the Qur’an which he introduces like this:

“Two of the four elements are earth and water, which are responsible for the growth of faith and of knowledge, give life to the living and appear in the heart as humbleness, for earth is humble. The other two elements are fire and ether. They are the opposites of earth and water. They burn, destroy, kill. It is the Divine that unites these opposites in one being. How do water and fire coexist? How are light and darkness contained within the clouds?

It is He Who shows you lightning, causing both fear and hope; it is He Who raises up the clouds heavy with rain.

Nay, thunder repeats His praises, and so do the angels, with awe. He flings the loud-voiced thunderbolts and therewith strikes whomsoever He will … (Sura Ra’d 12, 13)

The Shaykh goes on to speak of the union of opposites and how the human becomes a mirror reflecting the Divine Names, or Attributes. Of all creatures the human being is the only one that reflects all the Attributes. Traditionally these are seen as Jamal (Beautiful) and Jalal (Powerful). The Shaykh goes on to say, “Man contains the whole universe in his being: that is why he is called the unifier of multiplicity, the macrocosm.”

When experiencing a storm like the one I posted about yesterday, there is the experience of the Power and Might of God in the roar of thunder as the electric tension cracks through the air causing the lightning and a sonic shock wave as the surrounding air expands. Then comes the rain, beautiful, welcome, and full of blessings for the soil. The loud and magisterial followed by the musical and the nourishing. Yet even within the former there is great beauty and in the latter the power to destroy through flooding.

Observing the elements provides so many lessons on the Names of God and how their ‘energy’ works within creation and within ourselves.

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3 thoughts on “Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani on the Elements

  1. I read a bit of the Koran after chatting with you yesterday evening, and came across the Sura on Thunder. I also dug out The Conference of the Birds from the bookshelf.

    The four elements and the natural world are vital to an understanding of the Divine that moves beyond gender and beyond anthropomorphism, I think.

    I see you write haiku as well – another thing we have in common!

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