I am on a short break from a ten-day meditation retreat. An “aha” moment occurred that seemed to tie in with my forthcoming book, so here it is: The term Jahiliyya seems to apply here. When I begin to still the mind over several days, a primitive part of the ego begins to arise and demand attention. In every-day life this is generally suppressed as inappropriate, or anti social. It is the root of the “me me me!” impulse. Add cultural encouragement and a healthy infusion of camel-riding machismo and you get a sense of early seventh century Arabia. From Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad...
There is a term for the time before Islam, which is often misunderstood. Jahiliyya is known as the “Era of Ignorance,” although brutality, arrogance, and retaliation are more faithful to the Arabic. Muhammad’s approach was one of mild manner, calm deliberation, and gentleness, known as halim, an attribute of Allah as well as an antidote to this kind of attitude and behavior:
instructions for Jahiliyya
…the jahil, a wild, violent and impetuous character who follows
the inspiration of unbridled passion and is cruel by following his
animal instincts; in one word, a barbarian.Ignaz Goldziher
Know you are right.
Think fist and knife-edge.
Do not appear
foolish, no matter what.
Control your woman
and your guests; keep them
a little afraid, and thankful
for your protection.
Guard your clan’s
honor. Carve a notch
on your weapon of choice
for each successful pay-back.
If someone calls you animal,
smile and answer — lion,
hyena, crocodile, fighting cock—
the meek are the pack animals of the ferocious.*
* Jahiliyya is an important term, usually mistranslated as “the time of ignorance,” instead, Ignaz Goldziher argues, He sees it as barbarism, not ignorance, citing halim (mild), not ‘ilm (knowing) as the opposite term. He quotes an old Arab proverb: The meek is the pack animal of the ferocious (al-halim matiyyat al-jahul.) He devotes an entire chapter of his cited book to this subject.
From the lexicon: Ha La Ma (Ar. root) means, “to dream, muse, reflect, meditate…” hilm means gentleness, patience, discernment. halam can refer to the nipple or teat, the opening to the source! And more about this from Imam Bilal and Wali ali Meyer in their Wazifa Project: “Al-Halim is tender love, gentle and kind love. The tenderness of al-Halim is physical, emotional, and nurturing.”
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