Spiritual Arkan


AsSalaamu Alaikkum,

Can I please ask a question that’s puzzling me? This word “Arkan” which apparently means pillar has been coming up in my mind fairly recently. And especially the term “Arkan-ul-Awliyah” in particular.

Could you please let me know what it means? And also if Mawlana have ever mentioned it somewhere cos I’ve never seen or heard about this term being used anywhere. But its just coming up in my mind often recently.

JazakAllahu Khair :)


Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullah.

I am not familiar with this precise formulation, but it does have meaning.

To begin with, arkan is the plural of rukn. The latter word may indeed be translated as “pillar,” since it refers to that which supports. However, the word “corner” is perhaps more precise, since arkan usually refers to the four supports of a structure. In the archetypal case of the Holy Ka`bah, the corners are called arkan, and the Black Stone was originally called the Rukn. In the structure of the cosmos, the four elements are called arkan; but here it must be observed that there is in fact a “fifth element” from which the other proceed: the “Rukn ul-Arkan.” This last observation relates to the inner significance of the Five Arkan of Islam, as well as to the dhikr of the Throne-Bearing Angels who may also bear the designation Arkan.

Of course, the titles “qutb” and “watad” also relate to structural symbolism, and Shaykh Muhyiddin – may Allah sanctify his secret – specifically relates the duties of the four Awtad to the arkan of the Holy House. Although it is difficult to penetrate the mysterious relationship between these Awtad and the angelic Arkan, it is natural to identify the Awtad as the Arkan of the Saints, perhaps specifically as they relate to the four corners of the Holy House. I believe Mawlana Shaykh Hisham calls them Sayyidina `Abdul-`Alim, Sayyidina `Abdul-Hayy, Sayyidina `Abdul-Qadir, and Sayyidina `Abdul-Wahid, may Allah sanctify all their secrets.

And Allah and His Messenger know better.

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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