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Allah The Arabic word for God.
After a revelation given to the prophet Mohammed on Mount Hira, the name Allah referred to a single God.
Previously the Arabic term Allah designated a supreme God among other gods.
Moslems believe that Mohammed is the greatest among many prophets to have walked the earth. Mohammed is not equal to God but Allah’s great messenger.
The word Allah is not to be confused with the ninety-nine beautiful names of God mentioned in the Koran.
Arabic Christians use the term Allah to refer to ‘God, the Father’ (Allah al-ab).
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In Catholic theology one aspect of discernment is the use of reason and experience coupled with divine gifts to distinguish between true and false interior perception.
As Henri Martin P.S.S. puts it:
The charism of discernment is “a kind of supernatural instinct by which those who have it perceive intuitively the origin, either divine or not, of thoughts and inclinations submitted to them.” (J. de Guibert, Lecons, p. 306). It is to be distinguished from revelation of the secrets of hearts, properly so called, made directly by God. In such revelations, which is extremely rare, objective certitude is absolute. In the case of discernment the chances of error lie in the subjective interpretation and use of the supernatural light received. Lacking an infused charism, ordinarily “God will assist by special interior light a gift of discernment acquired by experience and prudence in the application of the traditional rules of discernment.”¹
On the need for seekers to be sincere, humble and rational in the discernment process, the scholar of mysticism, Evelyn Underhill, says:
Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must, they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtedly “of God,” others are no less clearly “of the devil.”²
Likewise, the Protestant William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, suggests that some lower forms of mysticism may have “proceeded from the demon.”³ The Lutheran Rudolf Otto also talks about different types of mysticism. See, for instance, “An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy,” Chapter XVI – The ‘Cruder’ Phases.
In Protestant and Catholic Churches discernment is described as a gift and developed ability where a person learns to differentiate among
- divine spiritual influences
- evil spiritual influences
- one’s truest self.
But a problem arises in that many religious people claim to discern. And often different religious and New Age enthusiasts discern differently on the very same issue, citing the “Holy Spirit,” “Allah,” “Angels” or “Objective Truth” as their source of authority.
Discernment often seems to mean taking an alarmist, knee-jerk view of issues that one doesn’t understand, projecting bad habits and transferring the unsavory contents of the unconscious onto scapegoats. This can happen on an individual level or through a kind of institutionally reinforced hypocrisy, as we’ve seen time and again in the history of religions, cults and spiritual movements.
Indeed, unconscious anger, resentment and unresolved psychological complexes may color discernment. And it seems that psychological pain, immaturity and the potential influence of fantasy or evil influences can all be intertwined.
Another related meaning of the term discernment is to discover what God wants an individual to do in life, to find one’s calling, as it were. This relates to the first meaning of discernment because we can’t do the right thing in life if we’re following imaginary voices, fantasy desires or the promptings of an evil power.
Thomas H. Green S. J. notes that, within Catholicism, this second form of discernment of finding one’s calling was once premised on sheer authority. A spiritual director would simply tell a religious what to do. Today, however, the relationship between discernment and spiritual directors has evolved. Emphasis is now given on “co-discernment” and, in the larger sense, communal discernment. Authority figures only provide general guidelines, as plainly evident in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to flesh out God’s will for his or her life.4
Father Edward Malatesta, S. J. definition of discernment combines the two previous aspects:
By the discernment of spirits is meant the process by which we examine, in the light of faith and in the connaturality of love, the nature of the spiritual states we experience in ourselves and in others. The purpose of such examination is to decide, as far as possible, which of the movements we experience lead us to the Lord and to a more perfect service of Him and our brothers, and which deflect us from this goal.5
Interestingly, some believe that a higher power or spiritual gift can override personal biases, enabling an imperfect person to make perfect discernments. This dynamic may, indeed, occur from time to time but for the most part it seems that the development of accurate discernment is a lifelong process.
And, quite possibly, we may continue to sharpen our powers of discernment in the afterlife.
¹ (ibidem). (Jacques Guillet, Gustave Bardy et. al. (trans.) Sister Innocentia Richards, Ph.D., Discernment of Spirits. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 104.)
² Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, New York: New American Library, 1955, p. 361.
³ London: Penguin, 1985, p. 423.
4 Thomas H. Green S. J., Weeds Among the Wheat - Discernment: Where Prayer and Action Meet, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1984, pp. 11-17).
5 Cited in Green, p. 41.
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Islam [Arabic: surrender] is the religion of Muslims, based on the text of the Koran (or Qur’an).
Islam contains 5 pillars of fundamental belief and practice:
- Ash-Shahada – the belief in only one God.
- Salat – daily prayer, with body facing Mecca, taking place at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nighttime.
- Sawm – fasting that is obligatory at puberty and also during the 9th month of the Islamic year (Ramadan), believed to be the period when the Koran was written. Eating and drinking is prohibited from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.
- Zakat - giving alms to the less fortunate, the amount being 2.5% of one’s total income.
- Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Moslems are obliged to take at least once in a lifetime. Hajj ideally is taken on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic year.
The Sunni branch of Islam is comprised of about 85% of contemporary Muslims and is often regarded as orthodox form of this religion.
The Shi’ite branch, mostly in Iran, Persia and partly in Iraq, represent about 10% of today’s Muslims.
Historically speaking, the Shi’ites and Sunnis split over a disagreement about the legitimacy of Mohammad’s successors (Caliphs)—not entirely unlike the Protestant refusal to recognize the authority of the Catholic Papacy.
The mystically based, unorthodox branch of Sufism arose partly as a reaction to the beliefs and standardized practices of orthodox Islam. In response, aspects of orthodox Islam have been critical of Sufism, especially in regard to the Sufi belief that a person can be “one” with God.
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In Islamic folklore and religion Jinn (or genies) are supernatural beings sharing with human beings the agency of free will. They live in a world parallel to ours, and may help or hinder humanity.
coolguymuslim bashes the negative Judeo-Christian (and Hollywood) stereotypes about the Jinn by adding that
They are not necessarily bad or evil. They are another of God’s creatures who are being tested as humans are. They are made of smokeless fire as humans are of clay. There are ethnicities, religions, and other divisions amongst jinn just as there are amongst humans.¹
Although they can be disruptive to human affairs, Jinn may be harnessed for heavy labor. Solomon, for instance, used them as helpers (Qur’an 27.17). And a person at the point of dying may be converted into a Jinn.
Gordon D. Newby says that Jinn are unlike angels because of their capacity to sin. In some folkloric tales they sit on the walls of heaven to try to hear what the angels and God are talking about. And shooting stars result from angels throwing things at them, trying to drive the Jinn away.²
In the Qur’an Iblis (i.e. the devil) is said to be both a Jinn and an angel. This has lead to much commentary about the nature of Jinn and angels among Muslim scholars.²
From a traditional Judeo-Christian point of view Jinn are often regarded as familiar spirits or demons. However, the Arabic word Jinn doesn’t appear in the Hebrew old Testament—it only appears in translations from the original Hebrew.
In Judeo-Christian tradition, the word or concept of jinn as such does not occur in the original Hebrew text of the Bible, but the Arabic word jinn is often used in several old Persian and Arabic translations.
In several verses in those Arabic and Persian translations, the words: Jinn (جن) Jann (الجان) Majnoon (مجنون) and Iblis (ابلیس) are mentioned as translations of familiar spirit or אוב (obe) for Jann and the devil or δαιμόνιον (dahee-mon’-ee-on) for Iblis.
In Van Dyck‘s Arabic translation of the Bible, these words are mentioned in Lev 19:31, Lev 20:6, 1Sa 28:3, 1Sa 28:9, 1Sa 28:7, 1Ch 10:13, Mat 4:1, Mat 12:22, Luk 4:5, Luk 8:12, Joh 8:44 and other verses as well. Also, in the apocryphal book Testament of Solomon, Solomon describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity.³
From a Jungian standpoint, the morally ambiguous Jinn might be comparable to the idea that the power of the archetypes is neither negative nor positive in itself. It’s the relationship to the ego that’s key.
² See Gordon D. Newby, A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Oxford: 2002, pp. 86-87, 116-117 (pdf online book).
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Not unlike characters from the mythic hero cycle, he was orphaned at a young age and raised by his grandfather. When his grandfather passed away, his uncle became a surrogate father and raised him as a merchant.
At 24 years Mohammed served a wealthy widow, whom later became his wife. Mohammed, however, was developing into a contemplative person and believed he was being called to introduce a new faith, one which would build upon and perfect the earlier religions of Judaism and Christianity.
After 600 CE he believed he had received divine revelations from the angel Gabriel, commanding him to preach this new religion, and the Koran was revealed to him.
Different Islamic traditions variously elaborate on the belief that he had received divine revelations. Some say that he was initially upset but his wife and Christian cousin consoled him.
Shia Muslims believe, however, that he was not distressed but rather, anticipated and welcomed the revelations from Gabriel.
According to Welch these revelations were accompanied by mysterious seizures, and the reports are unlikely to have been forged by later Muslims. Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.¹
When the Meccans opposed him, Mohammed fled to Medina in 622 CE and became supreme arbitrator and ruler. He then instigated war against his opponents–that is, against enemies of the new religion.
He conquered Mecca in 630, where he was seen as prophet-ruler of all Arabia. In 632 CE he made a final pilgrimage to Mecca. On Mount Arafat he articulated the ritual surrounding such pilgrimages (Hajj).
Back at home, he fell ill and died in the company of Ayeshah, one of his nine wives, and the daughter of an early disciple, Abu Bekr.
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