Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA are three excerpts from Laila Khalifa’s masterly written ‘Ibn Arabi, l’initiation à la Futuwwa‘. Albouraq Editeur-2001. First excerpt: Page 149 to 151, Second excerpt: Page 76, Third excerpt: Page 76. English translation from the original French by Via-HYGEIA. Our gratitude goes to our friend Logan Sparks for his kind help in the editing of this post.
‘Speaking about generosity, Jahiz* reminds us that it is the greatest quality of Allah (khuluq Allah al-Azam). As such, ‘karam’ (generosity) is the chief quality for the muslim ‘fatah’ (the devoted, virtuous and faithful knight). But it is also for him/her the very promise of ‘jannah’: The ‘karim’(quality) is the paradise of the Paradise. In a hadith, the Prophet says that Allah created ‘janna’ with his two hands, uplifted its fruits, dug rivers, looked at her and ordered her to speak. ‘jannah’ then spoke the first verse of the Al Mu’minun surat (The Believers): ‘Blessed are the Faithful’ (quad falah al-mu’minun). (The word falah gathers the meaning of cultivating, prosper, and also earning salvation and achieving the aim successfully). God, taking his Might and Majesty as witnesses, took the oath that he will not have it (the paradise, ‘jannah’) inhabited by a stingy person.
The hadiths that encourage the faithful towards generosity are many. In one of them, the Prophet declares: ‘The generous person is close to Allah and to the people; the stingy person is far from Allah, far from Paradise and close to hell.’ And in another: ‘He who believes in Allah and in the jugement day, may he be generous to his visitors’. Among the beautiful divine names qualifying the Ku’ran, we find: ‘Azim, Majid and Karim.’ The name ‘Karim’ (The Generous, Great and Noble) is the most used to qualify the Book: ‘Qur’an Karim’ (The Holy Kur’an). According to the Kur’an, the face of Allah, that will subsist after everything of this world is gone, is qualified as ‘karim’ (Wajhhu al-karim). The Prophet, in his capacity of the messenger, is also there called generous (rasulun karim)there. Allah’s throne is also ‘karim’, like His paradise and His reward; and everything He grows in couples on Earth (zawj karim). Finally, the angels and the pious man, but also man (son of Adam), have God honored with names such as generous and noble.
The 3 representation of ‘Karam’ in Islam are:
The notion of hospitality, ‘qira’.
The notion of self-abnegation, ‘ithar’.
The notion of generosity of knowledge, ‘Ilim’.
As early as the pre-islamic era, this notion is linked to the person of Abraham. In the ‘adab’ (courtesy usages) books and in the chronicles of the elders (awa’il), it is related that Abraham ‘was the first to serve the ‘qira’ to his visitors’. The Kur’an itself mentions this episode: ‘some visitors (in reality angels) come to Abraham. Without knowing who they were, he offers them his hospitality ‘qira’’. To qualify someone who is generous, the arabic says: ’uqri al-dayfan’ (he offers hospitality to two visitors). The ‘qira’ is the manifestation of generosity at its best.
Islam will insist also on the importance of self-abnegation, ‘ithar’. The prophet says: ’The best gift is the one that comes from someone in need’ (mu’sir). ‘Al-jud ma’a l-iqlal’. According to this saying, lacking (to be in need) is especially the criteria for generosity.* In the Kur’an, the ‘ansar’, who harbored the Prophet and the ‘muhajirun’ that had fled Mecca for Medina are the examples.
The hierarchy of generosities is given by a hadith: ‘After the generosity of the Generous of the Generous, comes the one from the most noble of Adam’s sons, the Prophet. In third position, we find the generosity of someone who received knowledge and shared it. He will be resurrected as a specific ‘umma’(as an entire community). Then comes the generosity of the one that gives his life ‘on the way to Allah’. The transmission of knowledge and martyrdom are a generosity offered to others in gratitude and return for what we have received from Allah, the most Generous of the Generous.’
‘The notion of Futuwwa* encompasses and even goes beyond the notion of chivalry. A ‘fatah’ is necessarily a knight: ‘La fata illa Ali wa la saif illa Dhu al Fiqar’ (There is no knight like Ali and no sword like Ali’s Dhu al Fiqar). But on the other side, a knight, whose bravery is probably his chief quality, if he is lacking generosity, he will not be admitted to the ranks of the ‘fatah-s’.’
‘I have been sent
to accomplish the noble virtues’.
Ibn Hanbal. 2,381.
1. More about Al-Jahiz here
2. In the original French: ‘Ce dicton fait du manque rien moins que le critère de la générosité’.
3. Chivalry (futtuwwa) and courtesy (adab) are actually essential parts of the Sufi path. Sufism’s inward aspect consists of traveling the Path and the crossing of its many stations (makam) to attain the level of subsistence-through-God (baqa). Its outward aspect consists of the tradition of chivalry, which is about the cultivation of the attributes of the ‘insan al Kamil’, the perfect human model.