Kithr is an extremely important character that appears in Quran who is the closest thing to a time lord as in Dr. Who as there is in early literature. He is extremely significant for Sufism. Rumi patterns his whole poetic corpus on explaining the nature of the sufic enlightened one like Shams al-Tabriz as being based on the image of Kithr. The Prophet Muhammad said that he wished that Moses was more patient with Kithr so we could have learned more from him. Sufis down through the ages like Shaykh al-Akbar relate stores where they meet Kithr. And these meetings are always turning points in the lives of the friends of Allah. He is the one who is not a prophet or messenger who knows more than they do. He is a unique being who is named for the color green because he is always alive and travels from time to time freely, without any hindrance. He appears to the various Sufic sages in the flesh and teaches them as he tried to teach Moses. Kither stands outside the prophetic tradition, because he broke the law of killing in the company of the prophet and messenger who was given the Law from god against killing and Moses could not bear that. Kither claims to have a knowledge directly from God which allows him to do that despite the fact that it is against the law of God, i.e., against killing without cause or right.
It is fascinating that Quran describes a being who is human but not bound by time nor the laws of prophecy and that this person claims to know directly from God which actions to perform and which to not perform. So in him we have an example of someone outside of Islam, or Judaism, who is more wise than even the greatest prophets within the prophetic tradition. I think this is unique for the religion of Islam to describe someone like that and to give them a reality. In Buddhism the wisest person is the Buddha, Śākyamuni. In Taoism the Wisest person is Lao Tzu. In every religion the founder is the wisest. But in Islam the wisest is not a messenger or a prophet. Rather the wisest is the one who puts the friends of Allah to a test. And in Islam there has been people who have shaped their practice after the way of Kithr like Shams al-Tabriz. Shams traveled as a merchant and thus did not travel though sufic circles. But he would make it his business to turn up and test those who claimed to be shaykhs or friends of Allah. When Rumi ran into him it was a test from Allah, and Rumi was overwhelmed by the depths of Shams al-Tabriz wisdom and enlightenment. It is said that Shams al-Tabriz also may have met Shaykh al-Akbar and tested him. These are the two great sages of the Sufic Tradition who expressed its essence in their voluminous works. They lived about the same time, and they are the two greatest exponents of sufism who took it to a whole new level. They represent the extremes of Super-rationality and Paradoxicality. The reason that Rumi is so loved in the West is that his ideal of the man of knowledge is the one who deal with absurdity, like Kithr. And since absurdity and paradox are the only recognized limit in the western tradition the praise for Shams al-Tabriz by Rumi where fusion with the master and fusion with God are contemplated, which is anathema to most Sufis. The general approach is supra-rational in sufism. But then there are all kinds of approaches in Sufism. Sufism is full of various groups who were considered heretics in Christianity, who found refuge in Islam. So Sufism in the East is just an amazing potpourri of practices from various sources. Sufism in the West is much more purely Islamic because there were fewer refugees from Christian persecution. It was like the difference between Soviet Russia and Western Europe. Myriads of people fled the inquisition into Islam for centuries. We only hear about the crusaders who kept up the good fight and lost badly. We do not hear about all the people who went on crusade and never came back because they found that Islam was civilized, and that there was relative freedom in Muslim countries that did not exist in Europe. We don’t hear about the great exodus from Europe into Muslim lands. Europe continued with the policies of the Christian Roman Empire, and then fell into Feudalism. Islam was cosmopolitan and had a very sophisticated culture relatively speaking. So the depopulation of Europe was between the 150 and the 1000s was in part an exodus from Europe. There were 1061 years when there was an active interface with Islam as a vibrant civilization from 622 to 1683. All during this period while Islam was expanding and beating the crusaders Sufism was having a golden age and Kithr was a central part of the mythology of Sufism with many Sufis claiming to meet him, and that continues up to the present day.
The first interesting thing about Kithr was the way Moses found him by the escape and tunneling away of a fish. They lost a fish and then went back for it to meet Kithr. This is so reminiscent of quantum tunneling that it is genuinely spooky. It is as if the fish finds a wormhole between universes and Moses takes that as a sign of where he will meet Kithr.
Kithr does three acts which Moses cannot continence.
- Pokes hole in boat of fisherman and sinks it
- Kills a boy without reason
- Sets up Wall for no pay in a town that did not give them hospitality
There are many interpretations of these acts which Kither explains to Moses when Kither refuses to go on further with Moses did not have patience with him but protested three times his actions.
Muhammad says that he wished Moses, who was not known for his patience, because he too killed a man so we could have learned more from Kither. Moses was also an orphan in the household of the Pharaoh who discovered his heritage (treasure) as a Jew. Moses began to worship Amun the hidden God and took his people on the Exodus in which an army came down to the sea. But they did not need boats but the army itself sunk after the Jews escaped by the parting of the waters closing in on them. These three actions in an odd way seem to mirror something of Moses back to himself. But they have been given myriad other meanings as well. If Muhammad had made up the Quran, and he wanted to hear more about Kither then he would just made up more about Kither. This is just one of many occasions Muhammad did not to know anything about a event until it was revealed in Quran.
Dante wrote his Masterpiece the divine comedy where he claims to meet God modeled on the mirage of Muhammad. Dante puts Muhammad in Hell as one who creates schism, which recognizes that Islam is a heresy of the Western worldview. Dante has St Francis initiating conversation instead of war with the sultan of the Egypt. Characterizing St Francis as oriental and the Dominicans as Occidental. Both of these orders were heavily influenced by Islam one being like the faqirs of Sufism, and the other being like the masters of Sharia law.
Here is the interesting thing about Kithr. Kiekegaard in his book Fear and Trembling on the absurdity of religion talks about Abraham and how absurd it was for him to sacrifice his son, which is compounded by the absurdity of a ram appearing at the last moment as deus ex machina. Shaykh al-Akbar however says that Abraham made a mistake when he took his dream literally. If this is the case then Abraham’s sacrifice is no longer absurd. Shaykh al-Akbar connects the sacrifice of a ram by Abel, to the appearance of the Ram as substitute for the son of Abraham, to the disappearance of Jesus into the heavens from which he must return as the ram did. Jesus and the Ram are both sacrifices that were taken up into the heavens and both have to return because of the purity of the heavens. Thus Shaykh al-Akbar offers rational explanations for both acts. Actually the story of Abraham as myth marks the end of Human Sacrifice just as the story of Adam marks the beginning of Patriarchy and the end of Matriarchy. But what is fascinating is that if you look in Islam for something absurd, then there is just enough information in the story of Kither killing the boy to make it absurd. And so there is at least one absurdity in Islam which is mostly supra-rational, just as the Western worldview is mostly paradoxical, but with a drop of nonduality in its kernel. Islam and the Western worldview are duals of each other. The difference is that Absurdity is a unique element in Islam that breaks the rules established by prophecy called the sunnah. In the Western worldview paradox and absurdity is the only limit that is known to thought and glimmers of supra-rationality are extremely rare. Thus one of the keys that Kither gives us is how Islam is the dual of the Western worldview because he holds the key to absurdity which remains protected in the Barzak, rather than running wild in every aspect of society as it does in the Western worldview.
The key is that the Western worldview and its major unstoppable heresy which is also fundamentally nondual, its Other, are really the same thing at their core because they share the two limits of the Divided Line of Plato which is the core of the Western worldview. Kither is a key figure in our recognition of the duality of Islam and the Western worldview. Muslims for the most part however interpret Islam as just as dualisically as the West does due to borrowed Jewish and Christian theology. God becomes the supreme existent instead of the supreme being.
The status of Kither in the Barzak gives us some insight into the realm of manifestation as it goes beyond revelation and prophecy. Kither breaks the norms established by the Prophets. He thereby becomes the master of absurdity. Absurdity is a singularity in Islam. That singularity exists in the protected space of the Barzak. As Rumi rightly shows the knowledge of the Sufi can be a knowledge of absurdity, i.e. the other limit of the divided line, rather than supra-rationality. And the middle way must be the middle between these two extremes, i.e. manifestation (Tajalliat of the Sifat).
History of Turmoil in Europe https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aivg5K2cz_FPdExRdUFiSDItVFNuYmlwTjZfZnRhMEE
For sources of timeline see https://docs.google.com/document/d/120vbVd3wEeeTteZkylRP_FUcOK98NIpp2kkQ6gzGXqQ/edit