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Poised on the Higher Horizon: Seeing God in the Sahara – Ariela Marcus-Sells

Abstract:

“This article presents an Arabic transcription and complete English translation of an untitled text – labelled “Khalwa ” in the manuscript catalogue – attributed to S ī d ī  al-Mukhtār al-Kunt ī , a Saharan scholar and Suteacher of the late-eighteenth century. In the accompanying commentary, I demonstrate how this textdraws together two passages in the Qur’ān: the ambiguous visionary encounters of 53:1-18 and Moses’srequest to see God in 7:142-143 to argue that, unlike Moses, Muḥammad received a direct vision of God. I further argue that, for S ī di al-Mukhtār al-Kunt ī , the question of seeing God was linked to his concern over legitimate and illegitimate knowledge from the realm of the unseen (ʿālam al-ghayb ). Intertextual references demonstrate that S ī d ī  al-Mukhtār understood the friends of God to occupy the same role in thespiritual hierarchy as Muḥammad and the prophets. Read in this context, “Khalwa ” suggests that the friends of God might be able to follow Muḥammad’s example, see God with their own eyes, and thus master the sciences of the unseen”

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