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The Kursiyy (The Supreme Seat of God)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-4

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The Kursiyy (The Supreme Seat of God)

Literally meaning a special place to sit, a chair, seat, or base, al- Kursiyy is the title of a spiritual realm which surrounds the universe and has the position of being the base upon which the ‘Arsh (the Supreme Throne of God) stands with its “two legs.” According to illustrious interpreters of the Qur’an, the Kursiyy is the realm where God’s commands are manifested and implemented, and it has a position below the ‘Arsh (the Supreme Throne). Every thing and every being in the heavens and on the earth, all heavenly bodies, with the inhabitants of each, are encompassed by al-Kursiyy. For this reason, humankind, all other living and non-living beings, and all realms are strictly bound to and dependent upon the commands and laws manifested here. All the laws belong to the Owner of the Kursiyy, Who dominates everything; all commands issue from Him, and the care and maintenance of all of creation are the result of His being the Lord. Whatever happens and whatever characteristics there are in the entire universe are with His permission and through His creation, and He is ever aware of all of these. Whatever happens and whatever there is in the heavens or beyond the heavens—be it of a primary or secondary degree, universal or particular, originating from the soul or senses, secret or manifest—God has absolute knowledge of all at the same instant that He is aware of the feelings that occur in our hearts, the thoughts that emerge in our minds, and the blood that circulates in our veins. God sees and maintains whatever He has created, He controls and directs it, and changes and transforms it—He does all this, but, as stated in the Qur’an (2:255), He is never wearied nor does slumber or sleep seize Him. He makes the ‘ Arsh a veil of the throne before His Attributes, and the Kursiyy a platform for His practices as the Lord. He creates what He creates, and continues the cycle of life and death, and both observes and makes observed through the Kursiyy that He is the All-Living and the Self-Subsistent by whom all subsist.

From the earliest interpreters of the Qur’an to contemporary ones, Muslim scholars have put forward the following views concerning the Kursiyy:

The Kursiyy is the seat of absolute authority that establishes and directs time; it is above the heavens and below the ‘Arsh and it surrounds the entire universe. It is also mentioned as the base upon which the ‘Arsh stands with its “two legs.” Its building-blocks are different from the foundation stones of the corporeal realm; they are neither atoms nor electrons, nor anti-atoms or anti-electrons; they are not even ions. It is a metaphysical entity whose true nature is only known by God. It is a body but not like the bodies we know; it has a nature but this is beyond our scope of perception. It is neither a corporeal body, nor a substance, nor an accident (something additional to a substance or an essence). However, in saying this concerning the Kursiyy, we should bear in mind that in their absolute sense all these attributes, that is, being neither a body, nor a substance, nor an accident, and being beyond the scope of our perception, are some of God’s Attributes in the negative. So using them for God in their absolute sense and for certain other beings or entities in the relative sense is a matter of belief.

The Kursiyy has a transcending nature, which is also viewed in connection with creation and spatial existence at the same instant that it surrounds the entire universe; this is, in the language of the interpreters of the Qur’an and using an approach close to that of the Arsh which, as mentioned above, was used by Bediüzzaman, both encompassing and encompassed. As for its Owner, neither time, nor space, nor directions are in question for Him.

He is neither in the heavens nor on the earth;
Neither on the right nor on the left; neither before nor after;
He is absolutely free from any direction.
So He is never contained in space.
Ibrahim Haqqi

The ‘Arsh is His, so is the Kursiyy, but the All-Transcending One’s relations with these are not in the forms of sitting, being established, settling, covering a space, or needing. God Almighty is never like any created thing or being. His Existence is all-substantial; It is true existence and He exists by Himself. In the language of the scholars of Islam, God is the Necessarily Existent One. He has neither an opposite nor a peer, neither an equal nor a rival. The Kursiyy is, in a sense, the realm of the manifestation and implementation of His Commands and it is one of the truths which underlies a nature that we cannot know or comprehend; it is an elevated station that stirs up our feelings of amazement. Even though many opinions or considerations have been put forward concerning the Kursiyy, all of these are far from being able to describe it with its true, exact nature. They are not wrong or misleading, but it cannot be claimed that they are its exact or complete description.

The Kursiyy has also been viewed as the arena of the manifestation of all attributes of existence in the corporeal realm. All elevated realms and all the formations, changes, alterations, transformations, and instances of assuming color and shape in them occur according to the commands and rulings manifested therein. Atoms and particles revolve according to a program of Destiny by the Command and Will that is reflected from the Kursiyy; the stars and heavenly systems continue their existence in perfect harmony according to the principles or rulings manifested in the Kursiyy. The angels and spirit beings fulfill the commands of the creation and operation of the universe with their eyes fixed on the Kursiyy. In short, all the parts of existence, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, are made to act by the commands that issue from or through it, they preserve their accord through their connection with it, and continue to live turned to it, even though they do not abandon considering themselves in one way or another.

Those who approached the Kursiyy from the perspective of the astronomy of Ptolemy viewed it as “the horizon of stationary realms” in the eighth layer of the heaven, and the ‘Arsh as “the allencompassing map” of the ninth heaven. This was what they were able to conclude according to their horizon of knowledge. According to the statements of the King of Prophets, upon him be peace and blessings, neither the ‘Arsh nor the Kursiyy, nor the realities concerning them are of the kind that we can approach according to our criteria; we are not able to comprehend them. Endowing them with a nature, one way or another, is beyond our capacity. In explaining the superior nature of the Kursiyy, the Pride of humankind, upon him be peace and blessings, says: “In relation to the Kursiyy, all of the worlds are like a ring cast on the desert.”[1] He said so only to draw attention to the incomprehensible vastness of the Kursiyy, to its function as the arena of the manifestations of and as a mirror to God’s commands, and to its being God’s Supreme Seat, where there is never a question of God sitting or of it covering space. It therefore means that there is nothing below the ‘Arsh more sublime and grand than the Kursiyy.

However, some leading scholars have viewed the ‘Arsh as related to time and the Kursiyy as related to space, although they have considered the former with its dazzling magnificence and the latter with its grandeur. If this approach comes from relating time and space each to an established, unchanging truth, there can be no objection to this and it is not incompatible with the fact that the ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy are both beyond time and space. Moreover, if it is indicated that the ‘Arsh and the Kursiyy are only relatively, not absolutely, beyond time and space, this cannot be criticized either. For absolute freedom from time and space is one of God’s Attributes in the negative; nothing else can have a share from this freedom that is essentially His.

To sum up: The Kursiyy (God’s Supreme Seat) is an arena of the manifestation of Divine Sovereignty and Rule, a special mirror of God’s all-encompassing Knowledge, a spiritual means for our minds to sense His infinite Power, Will, and Knowledge, and the immaterial, luminous Seat of the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

Just as the Supreme Ka‘ba is called God’s House as an expression of its supreme relation to God Almighty, the ‘Arsh has been called ‘ Arshu’r-Rahman (The Supreme Throne of the All-Merciful) and the Kursiyy, al-Kursiyyu’r-Rabbani (The Supreme Seat of the Lord) due to the sublimity of their relations, the vastness of the meanings they contain, and the profundity of their functions. Whatever we call them, the main point is to express the grandeur of Divinity and the fact that all of the worlds, great or small, are under His absolute control and direction. If we do not approach the matter in this way, but become involved in unnecessary detail, we will overstep our limits and show disrespect to truths whose exact nature we are unable to know.

This is the Kursiyy that encompasses all the worlds; it is a transcending, incomprehensible Seat of the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. All things and their basic characteristics don the body of existence and continue to exist by Divine Command, Will, and Power, Which are manifested in it. We can neither know the exact nature of the Kursiyy nor grasp the Divine mysteries that are involved here. The Sufis have viewed the Kursiyy as the horizon of the manifestation of Divine Power, the arena for the reflection and implementation of God’s injunctions and prohibitions as the Lord, and the first ground for the rise of Divine Names which originate in His Acts. Viewing it thus, the Sufis have regarded turning to that Power in awareness of our innate impotence and poverty as the mystery of being undefeatable; they have accepted sensitivity in obedience to His injunctions and prohibitions as faithfulness to the Owner of the Kursiyy, and felt and experienced all of existence as the manifestations of Divine Names and the harmony they form.

[1] Ibn Hibban, as-Sahih, 2:77; ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmed ibn Hanbal, as-Sunna, 1:247.