Spiritual states

The idea that words derived from the same root-letters are also semantically related is evident in the following hadith[1], The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has said: ‘The heart (qalb) takes its name from its constant turning (taqallub). The likeness of the heart is that of a feather in the desert, caught in a tree, being turned over and over by the wind.’

In this hadith, the human heart is likened to a leaf blowing in the wind[2]. Our emotional states fluctuate constantly and are affected by external circumstances that we have no control over. One minute we can be filled with joy and enthusiasm, and in the next we feel miserable and depressed.

Some spiritual states are fleeting, i.e. they come and go, and some of them arise or disappear in spite of our efforts. Our scholars and elders have written extensively about spiritual states and divided them into various groups. For example, spiritual states can be divided into two basic categories: stations (maqāmāt) and conditions (aḥwāl). The first category consists of different spiritual states that (generally) are acquired in a sequence one after the other. These stations are not brief experiences but relatively long lasting and are achieved through difficult spiritual labor. The latter category includes several spiritual conditions that all share two characteristic traits: they are fleeting experiences, and they cannot be acquired or avoided through our actions.

The Arabic word for a state or condition is ḥāl. This word is derived from the root-letters ḥā’ wāw and lām, and all words derived from this root point back to the fundamental semantic meaning of “a circular motion”. A year is called ḥawl, for example, as it can be seen as a cyclical rotation. The root meaning of the word ḥāl reveals something about the nature of our emotional conditions. Whenever they disappear, we can be fairly certain that they will return. Enthusiasm and vitality can easily change to apathy and lethargy. This is natural and difficult to avoid. Rather than wasting time trying to change these conditions, we should instead be focusing on how we behave in the presence of Allah when we are full of energy as well as when we feel empty and helpless.

[1] This is another example: Allah the Exalted says in a hadith qudsi, ‘I am al-Rahmān (the All-Merciful); I created the rahim (womb, i.e. family ties) and derived a name for it from My name. Hence, whosoever keeps it, I will keep ties to him, and whosoever severs it, I will sever ties with him.’

[2] The Arabic words for wind and passion stem from the same root. Our passions are capriciously directed towards different objects just as the wind blows in different directions.

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One Response to Spiritual states

  1. Iqra says:

    In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

    May God reward you!

    Interestingly, ه – و – ي are also the last three letters of the Divine Alphabet. It’s as if God is telling us that now that we have the Letters, we can simply breeze away into the Divine Matrix, a world where all meaning lies (a reference to your previous post about meaning: https://arabictreasures.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/125/), equipped with a set of tools which will allow us to take on The Tradition, by His grace, with the purest of intentions in seeking His Face. The great Tunisian polymath Ibn Khaldun said in his Prolegomena that ‘the East concern themselves with letters while the West concern themselves with words.’

    Additionally, the adjectives for airy and breezy, like the weather in Hawaii, is هوائي (pronounced hāwāī). In that vein, we may also consider the word lulu, which has come to connote a remarkable person or thing. But it’s clear to me that the etymology of lulu can be traced prior to 1886 which isthe earliest documented use in most modern etymological dictionaries. The Quran over 1400 years ago uses the term lu’lu (لؤلؤ) six times to refer to pearls: http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=l. This term was so beloved to one scholar that he even named his hadith compilation al-Lu’lu’ wal-Marjan from the verse in al-Raḥmān! And hence the name Pearl Harbor in the city of Honolulu i.e. هنا لؤلؤ hunā lu’lu’, meaning ‘here are pearls’!

    Even Marvel Comics is down with Arabic. Can you say The Incredible Hulk (هلك)?

    Okay, that may be a stretch,
    But only God knows best!

    May the Turner of Hearts keep ours firm on His way.

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