Bismallah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
“Considering all of its various forms, al-‘Alim is mentioned in the Qur’an more than any other single attribute of Allah” (Meyer et al. Physicians of the Heart, 45). Put simply, ‘Alim is the “all-inclusive,” “omniscient knowledge of God” (45). Inner knowledge, outer knowledge, knowledge of the seen and unseen: this is ‘Alim.
Specifically, ‘Alim “means the emanation of knowledge that reaches everything without exception” (45). Words derived from this Name’s root (A-L-M), such as ‘aylam and ‘alaamah, meaning “underground well” and “a water source that is under a mountain” respectively, suggest “an underground water source” (327). Furthermore, the words ‘alam, meaning “sign or symbol” and ‘aleem, “the word for the universe in the sense of a collection of all possible words” which has the “same root as the word for knowledge, ‘ilm” (328), suggest that, when taken together,
“all things known and unknown ultimately represent deeper truth…In one sense, all knowledge is symbolic or metaphorical” (327 emphasis added).
Another related word, ma’lam means “footprints on the path that give you a track to follow” as well “a river road, a road that leads to water” (328). These notions of water, water under the surface, when understood symbolically, lead to the conclusion that “the whole of creation is nothing but a collection of…divine signs” and if one has the eyes to see, one can “read the universe like a book, and so derive meaning from it…the world, by implication, is likened to a mirror in which the face of God is seen” (328).
The dimension of time is also related to ‘Alim in that “‘Alim is universal with respect to time” and “is universal with respect to space” (329). In other words, transcendent of time and space: infinite. And in these regards, yet another related word, al-‘allaam, leads to this conclusion:
“God, in creating thisworld and all possible worlds (‘aalameen), created a mirror through which God can see Gods’ own face. Allah, who is infinite, has infinite knowledge of self, and this manifests in the unlimited possibilities of created forms” (329).
Since they play off one another, I will treat the following names together, as they are understood as forming nice little pairs.
Qabid and Basit
In its beating, the heart contracts and expands. This is the movement of Names 20 and 21, Qabid and Basit.
Yet contraction and expansion, of course, are not limited to the heart, nor the physical body and they are to be understood as “divine states” (123). The notion of transience underlies the process of expansion and contraction. Sufis speak of entering a hal, or state, that is experienced along the spiritual path.
In particular, the states associated with Qabid and Basit are the experiences of the sober and the ecstatic. Qabid expresses the sober; that is the “contraction,” or the following away from, the experience of ecstasy, which is Basit and “when viewed from the standpoint of human beings, al-Basit expresses the vast expansion of self into the one and only being, like a sugar cube in water. But this state of absorption is transient. As the state departs, al-Qabid expresses itself into the limitation of individual selfness through contraction” (191). This repetition of expansion and contraction are, then, quite the norm for “those who have set forth upon the spiritual path” (191).
By looking at the various kinds of ecstatic states, we come to a clearer understanding of Basit. Nashiya means “to be drunk, to be enraptured. It is to inhale beauty to get an ecstatic state” (191-2) while tarab “is to be enraptured ore transported to extreme ecstasy with the beauty of music” (192). The expansion that is Basit, these ecstasies, is an unfolding, as “Allah comes more into the picture and ultimately breaks forth on the scene” and “The spiritual traveler begins to see the beauty of the beautiful one that is constantly unveiling and revealing aspects of divinity” (192). Such expansion can then, eventually, lead toward a “disappearance” of sorts, that like the sugar dissolved in water, on’e self is wiped out.
However, as a state, such is transitory. Sooner or later, there is an awareness that sets in and the “activity of al-Qabid draws you back into a limited self-awareness” (192). The ego may cling to such expansive experience, therein giving rise to “the nostalgia, the hunger, and the clinging” which “become stumbling blocks” (192).
Taken together, Qabid and Basit consist of the oscillation between the temporary dissolution of the self (Basit) and the reemergence of self, or ego (Qabid). After experiencing of ecstasy, there is pain, suffering experienced with the contraction from such. This sets in an aversion to the contracted state and an attachment to the expanded state. As such, the Names are paired in order to “bring you to equanimity…allows you to move toward balance and begin to surrender your attachment and aversion to the expanded and contracted states” (123).
Khafid and Rafi’
Whereas Qabid and Basit concern the transitory states, or hal, Khafid and Rafi’ concern what are called maqaam, “or spiritual station, and nontransient state of spiritual realization” (47) and whereas the previous pair concern the process of expansion and contraction, “the movement described by the pair al-Khafid and ar-Rafi’ is vertical” (46).
Specifically, Khafid is the lowering of one along the spiritual station while Rafi’ is the rising. Now one may ask, why would one be lowered on this “ladder?”
The answer? “Al-Khafid’s lowering of your spiritual station is out of loving protective concern for the soul of the wayfarer” (47), a notion embodied in one of the meanings of Khafid’s root which means “to lower the wing like a mother chicken lowers her wing over her chicks to protect them” (47).
Rafi’, then, is the rising through the stations, thus facilitating “movement to the higher planes” as the wayfarers “draw near Allah,” allowing one to “transcend lower states, opinions, prejudices, and even to overcome obsession” until the “inner workings of the soul” are unveiled (47).
Mu’izz and Mudhill
The 24th and 25th Names of Allah also for a pair, the understanding of one complementing the understanding of the other.
While Mu’izz, “is the one who gives the gift of self-esteem” and “brings true diginity,” Mudhill “leads you to the domain where you see yourself as the lowest of the low” (47-48).
Mu’izz shares the same root as ‘Aziz, the 8th name: meaning “sweetness” as well as “special” and “rare,” Mu’izz is “the one who can take us to the state of ‘Aziz, “the strength that naturally flows from intrinsic, essential worth” (41) and is “an antidote for attachment to reputation and…self-aggrandizement” (47).
By contrast, Mudhill takes one to one’s lowest depths “where the original disconnected and isolated ego identity has been constructed” (48). Mudhill’s “root means to seek or yearn for the object of a long cherished wish” (48) and this yearning, as embodied in the Name “empowers you to face your lowest self” (48). Such is absolutely necessary on the spiritual path, for without this confrontation, one “cannot begin to dissolve the false self” (48).
At the same time, however, in “going low–which you thought was terrible–you may actually be drawn near to Allah” and one can begin to see “that no matter how you are perceived, you are always in the hands of Allah, who cannot be limited by humanity’s ideas of high and low” (106). When one reaches that lowest of the low, that place of shame and humiliation, a shame that can be “kickstarted” as a countermeasure to grandiosity and “debilitating pride” (108), “Mu’izz comes to the rescue” (108), and thus “a real spiritual breakthrough” is achieved (108).
And when this breakthrough is achieved, the wayfarer–having confronted the shame and humiliation associated with the lowest aspects of oneself, the “anguish of the soul” (48)–remembers and honors “the truth that your soul is created in the divine image” (48).