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Question on Qabala

To: Tariqas 
From: Gale 
Subject: RE: Question on Qabala
Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 18:58:23 -0700

Greetings to you Rick,

I=92m quite ignorant about classical Qabala, nevertheless your question=20
poses very interesting scenarios. For whatever reason, many scholars and=20
students seem timid to approach this area of Jewish-Islamic-Sufi=20
research (as well as the Christian-Islam-Sufi interactions) =96 as if the=
purity of divine revelation will somehow be soiled if we happen to=20
discover some mundane truth in history! Therefore, instead of directly=20
addressing your question on the Sufi-Jewish interactions pertaining to=20
the Tree of Life, I would prefer to offer a collage of information. =20
Although I have always enjoyed Idries Shah=92s works, I am also suspiciou=
of his historical conclusions, re. interreligious influences, because he=20
so rarely supports these with primary and secondary sources. There=92s no=
easy way to check his statements=92 credibility. Besides, now with so man=
new pre-Islamic Near Eastern Christian and Jewish documents coming to=20
light, Shah=92s theories as well as other theorists favoring Islam=92s=20
untouchability with earlier traditions, are quite out-dated. A good=20
example: it was the popular view that no precursor for Mohammed=92s five=20
daily prayers existed and thus it was an original revelation; however,=20
now we know that the Christian ascetic communities in the Amid region of=20
Syria indeed practiced the identical prayer regimen much earlier (cf. A.=20
Voobus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, vol. 1), and it was=20
also the Syrian dialect of the Amid that may have been the basis for the=20
Quran=92s Arabic (cf. S. Trimingham, Christianity amongst the Arabs). The=
idea of the Qabalistic Tree of Life having any direct relationship with=20
Sufism is one such problem.  Of course one finds a kind of=20
proto-sephiroth in the doctrine of logoi in the writings of Philo during=20
the first century, and again in the Sefer ha-Bahir which is purported to=20
be a transmission of teachings that were pre-Islamic.  Another=20
interesting historical finding is that images of the Tree of Life were=20
common icons in Syrian Monophysite Christian churches from the late 6th=20
century onwards, and in some of the early Muslim chronicles it was the=20
single image that may be present for Muslims entering a church to=20
perform nimaz =96 before the development of the legalist schools which=20
consequently forbid Muslims from praying in churches altogether. Some=20
enlightened spiritual leaders such as Jaffar Saddiq and Ibn Arabi=20
permitted nimaz in churches without exceptions. (cf. Basham=92s very=20
detailed article on Christian and Islamic qiblas and Muslim prayer in=20
Oriental churches in "Muslim World")

I find no problem in asking ourselves questions such as Raqib=92s post=20
offers: did Mohammed (pbh) have a spiritual mentor(s)? If so, was s/he=20
Jewish, Christian, and/or Hanif?  And what kind of Judaism or=20
Christianity did s/he represent?  For example, Ibn Sa=92d=92s and Ibn=20
Hisham=92s story of the mysterious Christian monk Bahira who recognized=20
Mohammad=92s (pbh) prophetic destiny doesn=92t end there.  Debates over=20
Bahira=92s orthodoxy continued into the middle ages, even between=20
Christians and Muslims. A monastery dedicated to him was founded in=20
Basra (I understand it still operates) and a later Syriac text entitled=20
the Apocalypse of Bahira was circulated among the Nestorians.  At the=20
Muslim end, Bahira was acknowledged as an associate of Mohammed=92s=20
Companion Salman Farsi. (cf. C. de Vaux, "Legende de Bahira ou une moine=20
chretien autour du Coran" Revue de l=92Orient Chretien, 1897)

Specifically in the Jewish arena, we find, for example, Rahman the=20
All-Merciful as an official name of God in the Babylonian Talmud, and=20
was the principal name for God (Rahmanan) used by the Jewish King=20
Dhu-Nuwas from Yemen (who, by the way, was the first to institute an=20
official "Holy War" in South Arabia!)  The Quranic references to=20
emphasizing a message given to other peoples, and now the Arabs, is a=20
clear echo of Zephaniah 2:9: "Then I shall turn to the nations a clear=20
language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord."  There was a=20
Hebrew scholar in Israel, I believe it was Goiten, who observed that the=20
oldest suras focus on references to Moses, and only the later ones make=20
reference to Jesus, which likewise parallel the earlier suras=92 emphasis=
on Rahman and the latter=92s introduction of Rahim (maybe some of the=20
Quranic scholars on-line can verify this).  And then the favorite legend=20
amongst Sufis of Khider=92s outrageous behavior during his wanderings wit=
his disciple Moses is found much earlier in the Jewish legend of=20
Elijah=92s rambunctious acts with his disciple Joshua ben Levi, and again=
in a popular Mid-East folk legend found in the Alexander Romance cycle.=20
(cf. article on Khider in Encyclopedia of Islam, EJ Brill, Leiden)

Wow, and we never got to the Islamic concepts of multiple Messengers=20
during the course of history, the Seal, the prophetic notion of the=20
Gospel=92s Paraclete as a human being instead of an event of the spirit,=20
and the docetic teaching of Jesus=92s illusory death via a substitution a=
finding their closest historical predecessors -- not in Christianity or=20
Judaism -- but in Manicheanism! (Manichean scriptural sources available=20
upon request).

What=92s going on here?

Blessings to all,  Nur

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