`Abd al-Karim al-Jili on the Sidrat al-Munahā.
`Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī (d. c. 832/1428), 'On the Sidrat al-Muntahā' in sect. 49 of the al-Insān al-kāmil... (vol.2 pp.12-13)
Trans. Stephen N.Lambden (1997)
Towards the beginning of volume two of the celebrated al-Insān al-kamil fi ma`rifat al-awakhir wa'l-awa'il. ("The Perfect Man surrounding the Gnosis of the Ultimacies and the Beginnings"; ed. Egypt [Cairo]: Matba`at Mustafa al-Babi al-Halaby [2 vols in 1] Vol. II 1375/1956; pp. 12-13) of `Abd al-Karim al-Jīlī (Gilānī) has a section "On the Sidrat al-Muntahā" (sect. 49/1:12-13):
الباب ا لتاسع والأربعون: في سدرة المنتهى
اعلم أن سدرة المنتهى هى نهاية الكانت التى يبلغها المخلوق فى سيره الى الله تعا لى، و ما بعدها إلا المكانة المختصة بالحق تعالى وحده ليس المخلوق هناك قدم، ولا يمكن البلوغ إلى ما بـعد سدرة المنتهى ، لأن المخلوق هناك مسحوق ممحوق وحوفما ومدموس مطموس ملحق بالعدم المحض لا وجود له فيما بعد السدرة
Know that the Sidrat al-Muntahā is the termination of the position which created things (al-makhlūq) reach in their journey towards God, exalted be He. And whatsoever is after it is naught except the locale specialized to the True One (= God; al-ḥaqq) alone. It is not possible for created reality to proceed therein and impossible for it to attain unto what lies beyond the Sidrat al-Muntahā. This since therein created reality would be pulverized, exterminated, crushed , obliterated, tending to complete nullity. There is no existence [for created reality] relative to what is beyond the Sidrah ("Lote Tree [of the extremity]"). Of this there is allusion in the utterance of Gabriel -- upon him be peace -- unto the Prophet [Muhammad] -- upon him be peace -- "If you step forward but a measure you would be incinerated". The "if" here is a particle of prohibition. Stepping forward is thus prohibited.
The Prophet [Muhammad] -- blessings and peace be upon him -- transmitted that he found therein the Tree which is the Lote-Tree (shajarat al-sidr) which has leaves like the ears of elephants. It is thus necessary to have complete faith in that for he [Muhammad] transmitted it himself through personal experience. It is, furthermore, possible that the tradition (ḥadīth) [detailing this] is to be taken figuratively. Such is what we discovered in our [own heavenly] ascent. It is [also] possible that it [the tradition] (hadith) is to be taken according to its concrete sense (ẓāhir). He [Muhammad ] would therefore have discovered its [the Lote-Tree's] symbolic dimensions and its divine, visibly apparent aspects.
The Tree which is the Lote-Tree [of the Extremity] (shajarat sidra) was something perceived by his [Muhammad's] imaginative faculty, evident through the eye of his [Muhammad's] perfection. Wherefore was conjoined for him the definitive disclosure (al-kashf al-muḥaqqaq) both of form and of meaning. It was likewise with respect to all that he [Muhammad] transmitted in this connection and which he discovered in the course of his Night Journey (mi`rāj). And we have absolute faith in everything that he said. And if we should find it [him/ limited] in this respect we have vouchsafed to him but a limited unveiling. This since our mi`rāj ("night journay") is not like his [Muhammad's] mi`rāj ("night journey"). We merely derive from his [Muhammad's] ḥadīth ("tradition") a [personal] construction not having been vouchsafed the unveiling (al-kashf). We acknowledge that for him [Muhammad] is what lies beyond that which our knowledge cannot attain.
And whoso we have vouchsafed the unveiling (al-kashf) of this ḥadīth ("tradition"), realizes that the intention of the Tree which is the Lote-Tree [of the Extremity] (shajarat sidr) is faith. He [Muhammad] said -- blessings and peace be upon him -- "Whoever fills his interior with nabq God has filled his heart with faith". For its [the Lote-Tree's] existent Reality exhibits "leaves like elephant's ears". Wherefore is struck the similitude of the magnitude of and the power of that faith. In every one of the houses of Paradise there hangs one of its leaves which is indicative of the faith of the owner of that house.
And know that we allotted the Sidra ("Lote-Tree") a "station" (maqam an) consisting of eight Presences; in every "Presence" that is of the Sublime observable aspects which cannot possibly be enclosed. That observable aspect may be contrasted with the inclinations of the denizens of these Presences.
As for the [question of theophanic] status [of the Lote-Tree] (maqām). This concerns the appearance of the True One [Ultimate Reality, God] (ẓuhūr al-ḥaqq) through His various manifestations (maẓāhir). They are an indication of His Self-Manifestation (tajalli) in what before Him consists of the realities of Reality (ḥaqīqat al-ḥaqqiyat) and the inner dimension of created reality.
The First Presence
is theophany therein of the True One (al-ḥaqq) through His Name "the Evident" (al-ẓāhir) in view of the inner aspect of the human being [servant] (al`abd).
The Second Presence
is the theophany therein of the True One (al-ḥaqq) through His Name "the Inward" (al-bāṭin) relative to the exterior nature of the human being.
The Third Presence
is the theophany therein of the True One (al-ḥaqq) through His Name Allāh ("the Deity", "God") in view of the spiritual aspect of the human being [servant].
The Fourth Presence
is the theophany therein [of the manifestations] of True One (al-ḥaqq) through the Attribute "the Lord" (al-rabb) in view of the selfhood of the human being (`servant'; nafs al-`abd).
The Fifth Presence
is the theophany of the [specified] degree (tajalli al-martaba) which is the Manifestation of the All-Merciful (al-rahman) through the intellect of the human being (`servant'; `aql al-`abd).
The Sixth Presence
is the theophany therein of the True One (al-ḥaqq) through the imaginative faculty of the servant [human being] (wahm al-`abd).
The Seventh Presence
is the gnosis of the Divine Ipseity (ma`rifat al-huwiyya) through the theophany therein of the True One (al-ḥaqq) through the "I-ness" (self-identity) of the name of the human being (aniyya ism al-`abd).
The Eighth Presence
is the gnosis of the Divine Essence (ma`rifat al-dhāt) on account of the absoluteness of the human being (muṭlaq al-`abd) through the theophany of the True One (al-ḥaqq) in this mode (maqam) on accont of [the expression of] His Perfection (kamil) in the exoteric (outer) aspect of the human temple (ẓāhir al-haykal al-insānī) and [as well as] its esoteric (inward) dimension (wa bāṭinihi) -- it is esoteric by virtue of inwardness and exoteric by virtue of apparentness (bāṭin an bi-bāṭin wa ẓāhir an bi-ẓāhir) [as well as] Ipseity (huwiyya) through "He-ness" (bi-huwiyya; "self-identity") and identity (aniyya) through "I-ness" (bi-aniyya).
This is the most lofty of the Presences. There is naught after it save "Oneness" (al-ahadiyya). For the created thing (li'l-khalq) there is not therein any scope [ for operating] for its nature is dependent upon the pristine nature of the True One; dependent upon the necessarily existent properties of the Necessarily Existent [Godhead, Divine Essence] (al-wajib al-wujūd). When, therefore, something emanates on account of the Perfect [One] we say that it is a divine disclosure (`manifestation', theophany' (tajall[in] ilahi) "unto it" (la-hi), "within it" (bi-hi). For in His creation (li'l-khalqihi) there is therein neither place nor any relationship with the thing created (al-khalq). Nay, rather! it is [wholly] dependent upon the True One (huwa li'-ḥaqq). And it is for this reason that the people of God (ahl Allāh) are held back [from] the theophany of the Divine Oneness (tajalli al-aḥadiyya) before the creation (li'l-khalq). Wherefore does the appearance of the Divine Oneness (al-aḥadiyya) take precedence in what is realized. God is the cut off point for the [human] mind ....