Delving Into Islamic Mysticism: An interview with Writer & Spiritualista Jehan Mansy

04/18/2017 10:20 pm ET
Columnist and editor Jehan Mansy writes about spirituality, Islamic esotericism, alchemy, and her dating life in multiple columns for women-run media site Miss Muslim, described as the “halal Cosmo.” Candid about her journey traversing the dating scene in Los Angeles as a Muslim woman and experimentations with Sufism/Tasawwuf, Mansy’s columns on spirituality in particular struck a chord; especially the way they “un-veiled” mystical dimensions of Islamic practice. More specifically, I was intrigued by her writings on divine femininity within Islamic traditions. Arising from my artistic and organizing practice around cultivating Muslim women’s narratives, I wanted to highlight Mansy’s contributions to an emerging body of Muslim women’s intimate writing on social and spiritual life. Being my overly precocious, gadfly self, I was also deeply interested in getting her take on the role of spirituality and the sacred feminine in today’s current political climate. Below is an interview I conducted with her via email:

1) You introduced your new column on the site Miss Muslim by explaining that you are now embracing your "authentic self after leaving " a spiritual order that was too patriarchal for my Divine feminine self." Can you elaborate on this?

I had been studying Sufism for years and took initiation last Spring. However after two weeks, I regretted it. While I do not harbor any ill will towards the sect, I quickly realized I was not in alignment with the manner in which it was being taught. The few short months I was in the Sufi order, I felt my mysticism was constrained to the interpretations of a man’s perception of religion. For years I would have dreams of the grand Sheikh in the order and I felt that was a sign to study his tariqa. I still feel a strong attraction to Sufism as a whole yet as a woman and where I am with my spirituality, that specific order was too patriarchal. Like any spiritual path you take, you undergo significant stages of transformation. The first batch of chanting I was assigned carried more masculine energy than feminine. I noticed the effects, immediately. For example, chanting the word, “Allah” (Arabic word for God) is the masculine energy of the Divine. Whereas, chanting “al-Rahman” (the Merciful) is the feminine energy of the Divine. When your body is not in balance between masculine/feminine, habits of fear and doubt overtake you. Further during this imbalance, the masculine energy source which houses power, crushes the feminine energy of love. In the eyes of God, there is no distinction of male or female. We are all created from the same source, His source. I have already been developing my clairvoyance years before my initiation and during my commitment to Sufism, when I attempted at elevating to the next phase, I was told I wasn’t ready or my visions were an illusion.  Generally, majority of people who seek initiation into a spiritual school are usually spiritually thirsty. As a result, they go through a process of deconstructing their old thought patterns. Often times this process is intense, rigid and leaves the individual overwhelmed, at first.  I came into Sufism already spiritually fulfilled and accepting of my own mysticism. The further I went along with the sect, it was apparent that it was not in accordance to my beliefs. 

2) What role did alchemy play in the history of Islamic traditions?

I wrote an article on this wherein I looked at the alchemical effect of the Quran and its deep transformative affect it has on the soul. Ibn Arabi taught us how words and symbols unlock aspects of the Universe. The metaphysical hidden properties of the Quran continue to amaze me. Language is used to open up realities in the same manner that mathematical numbers open up their own individual reality. Arabi dedicated his studies to decoding God’s word and his captivation is shown through his writings that are saturated with terminology from the Quran. The scripture is thus understood as undefined from God, yet it becomes manifest in recitation and writing. God’s speech reveals itself not only in scripture, but also in the Universe. Each letter in the Quran is a world on its own with its own spiritual power and attribute. According to Arabi, every letter specifically evolves from an element (water, fire, air or earth), subsequently belonging to either lightness or darkness and to a corresponding numeric code. This form of science is too vast to briefly cover in this post. Further, the alchemy of Islamic inscription on jewelry and talisman is another branch from the tree of power of the Quranic language. The use of metal — gold, silver, copper —  with inscriptions of Quranic verses and prayers was manifested out of the need to demonstrate the metaphysical property each phrase contains. Since everything carries energy, the use of Islamic calligraphy on metal was intended to amplify the esoteric significance of each verse. Thus, the real message of the relationship existing between letters and numbers is difficult to fully understand, but I hope that this brief introduction opens a new door of curiosity to you about this beautiful faith. This type of knowledge can be understood and fully integrated through a mystical evolution. 

3) And astrology? Can you explain how an Islamic capital like Baghdad reconciled astrological and astronomical practice? At times, it appears that you use astrology and astronomy interchangeably. For Westerners and followers of the scientific method this might, at first blush, sound inimical.

The study of Islamic astrophysics is categorized in two groups; astronomy and astrology.  Astronomy is the knowledge of the size of the planets, their attributes, and the measurements of their movements as well as their overall impact. Within the realm of astrology, the idea of celestial bodies as divinities is believed to represent each constellation and the god that rules it. The birth of astrology was found in the basis of mathematical data and later was used more in occult practice and divination. Astronomy – Ilm al-Falak the science of the heavens – has significant influence within Islam. In fact the effect of astronomy is woven throughout the Quran. Perhaps the most pivotal point in Islamic influence on astronomy was for the purpose of time keeping. Since Muslims are required to pray five times a day at a specific time in relation to the sun, astronomical time keeping was the most accurate way to determine the time for prayer. Additionally, it was also used to identify religious holidays. The Muslim calendar is based upon the moon. Renowned Islamic scientists such as Al-Biruni, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Shatri, and Al-Ma’mun, mastered understanding the movement of the planets and the ability to calculate their positions in the future. The science dealing with such influences was termed astrology, Ilm an-Nujūm. These celestial bodies, presently known as constellations, make up the galaxy. The descriptions of these bodies swimming along indicate the rotation of the stars and planets.  “I have created buruj (Zodiac signs) on the sky and decorated them for viewers and I have also protected them from evils […]” (15:16). The common theme throughout my column, to date, is the discussion of energy. Everything has energy. The planet’s energetic influence on our spiritual and physical body should not be ignored. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) birth was predicted by an astrologer, “I have seen in the books of the ancients that the astrologers informed Khosraw that the Arabs would gain royal authority and prophecy would appear among them. The signification of the Arabs is Venus, which was then in its exaltation” (Muqaddima, Khaldun). 

4) In one of your columns after the November elections, you wrote: "When the Aquarian Age ushered in 2012, spiritualist(s) prepared for the shift. Year after year since then, we experienced a consciousness awakening. You might not think so given the latest Presidential results. Trust me, nobody feels the devastation like the light workers." Can you elaborate on this--especially for those experiencing get despair and dejection after the November 2016 elections?

What we are experiencing now is a result of the global shift that occurred on December 21st, 2012. The earth shifted her vibration for her growth. We have to vibrate at this same frequency in order to be in alignment with the Universe. To match your vibration with the earth's wavelength, is to step into your own power. We are experiencing the struggle between masculine vs. feminine in our everyday lives, from family dynamics to the current political arena, we are being forced to acknowledge and confront the change in energy. These shifts are necessary for individual and human evolution. Those who have been doing their spiritual work, at a conscious level, have been transitioning a lot smoother than those who have not. Further, those who have not done the work are feeling out of alignment within themselves. For example, this can be manifested by dealing with bouts of depression, loneliness, or stuck in a professional or romantic rut. Therefore when a planetary shift, as massive as what we experienced in 2012, there has to be an individual shift in awareness. Everything is connected. Days after the 2016 Presidential election, the moon was in Taurus and it's emergence revealed what was hidden. We saw this from the DNC debacle, to the Clinton emails and subsequently the lingering question over Russia's involvement with our election. Outdated traditions are being questioned and dismantled. It may not feel like it with the current Administration but the fact there is a massive coalition fighting back with every step, proves we have consciously shifted.

5) What advice would you give readers who were interested in delving deeper into the Islamic esotericism and metaphysics you write about?

Start with connecting to your ancestral lineage. Where do you come from? What were your ancestors like before Islam? We carry our spiritual family within our DNA and most times, our present day perception is a continuation of the origin. By reconnecting with your ancestral lineage before Islam does not mean you are leaving the religion. You are simply bridging the gap. Spirituality is simple. There are ways to attune to His essence and allow His Divine presence to flow through you. Just by you being inquisitive about your path means you are already in the state of an awakening, and you can gradually take the necessary steps to continue on the path. Each and everyone's journey has the same premise – to be in a state of God consciousness. Start with a mindful practice. Emptying the mind allows us to create an inner space where we can become united with the Divine. Since He is already within us, the answers we are seeking are within. Next, ask for guidance. As soon as your make a conscious effort to realign yourself, you will notice people who match your vibration and thirst for knowledge will come into your life. I studied a handful of different spiritual schools all while staying within Islam. In fact, it was through acquiring spiritual teachers from other metaphysical paths that kept me rooted within Islam. I grew up reading the works of Imam Al-Ghazzali and as I delved deeper into Islamic esotericism I studied Ibn Arabi, Ibn Sina, Khalid Ibn Yazid and others.  

6) In what ways is this column a departure from the one it replaced ("Spirituality, Sufism, & Starbucks")? And you also have a Sex in the City-esque column for Miss Muslim titled "From Plaid to Prada" that predates both columns. How do and did you see these columns speaking to the wholeness of you and your story?

Great question! My SSS column geared towards Sufism and when I wanted to reveal more of my personal mysticism, which is balanced between what is commonly thought of as traditional Islamic Esotericism and Unitarian Kemeticism, I had to tread lightly because I was writing under the banner of Sufism. I didn’t want my deep spiritualism to be misrepresented. My Plaid to Prada column is not a nod to Sex and the City. For one, there’s no Sex! And second, my dating experience in California is really a revelation about my own spirituality. True, I expose my rollercoaster ride with dating but what is more important is my spiritual journey I took and I’m still taking. I’m a Midwestern. first generation American and Muslim woman. While I was raised in a progressive house, I moved to California as a conservative Muslim. Thankfully, I’ve maintained what is important to me, in relation to boundaries with men, but I realized the conservatism I boxed myself in, was only crushing my soul. As I evolved and got in touch with my essence, I am not as stubborn or judgmental as before. For example, within the first series of P2P, I talked about an ex who wanted to take a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I called my parents to ask permission. Their response was heart warming. But goodness, I am a grown woman and I would ask permission to take a road trip with a guy I was dating. That’s how conservative I was! Thankfully, I’ve chilled out over the years and what I look for in a partner [now] is very different from 7 years ago. Additionally, my dating life is seriously comical! For example, 6 years ago, while on a date at a guy’s house I accidentally walked into his BDSM room and literally thought it was a torture room. My naïve Midwestern self thought this guy secretly housed women, against their will, and tortured them. Not only did I realize I watched way too much Investigate Discovery, but I was gravely naïve. Overall, my independence and experience dating in California was what pushed me to emerge in my spirituality. I wouldn’t have been able to evolve or get in touch with myself, if it weren’t for my love life. Funny, I sought love and in turn received a love affair back to God.

7) Can you explain to readers the role of divine femininity in this moment? How can it be cultivated, preserved and elevated--especially within the current climate of a patriarchy running on the fuel of masculine dominance? 

The importance of my work whether through my writing or at an individual level, not just within Islam, but as a woman is to bring out people's Divine Feminine power. Religion as a whole, has been practiced through masculine interpretation. We have countless stories and examples of how women were elevated during the times of the Prophets, starting from Prophet Abraham to Prophet Muhammad. But those tales are usually spun in defense to prove a point. How are not just women but all humans today, regardless of their religious subscription, tapped into their femininity? This is where the importance of a spiritual practice comes into play. What are you doing to honor yourself? How are you harnessing your self and cultivating your feminine energy? Understandably in today’s world, many of us would have suppressed this energy in order to cope with modern day life. I worked in Corporate America for the beginning part of my career in a male dominated industry and was suppressing my Divine Femininity to the extent that I was frequently sick and in my power center, above all areas. Divine Feminine energy is the representation of attributes already within us; creation, birth, healing, openness, love, nurturing, compassion, intuition, forgiveness, etc. When I came into alignment with my feminine self, I did not conform to an archetypal idea of what divine feminine is. I released the ideas and practices that disallowed my own feminine essence from shinning. I re-claimed who I really am.

8) How has the reception to your new column been like? What kind of responses have you received?

First I want to note, writing as a Spiritual woman has been challenging. I am constantly questioned, viciously labeled and I truly believe it’s because I don’t have a beard. In fact a [guy] friend even told me, “I can’t believe you know all of this and you’re not a 50 year old Sheikh.” I’ve noticed my new AA column attracts a different set of readers. Whereas before, I attracted individuals who think like I use to, years ago. Which is fine. The readers on my AA column are more spiritually aligned with my beliefs. Thankfully, both columns attract non-Muslim believers, which is great! I get inquiries from all around the world, who associate with different belief systems but find a a unifying message in my writing. That is why I write about spirituality. 

9) What's next for you and Alchemy & Astrology? How this column fit in to your work and future as a healer

I don’t consider myself a healer. I’m a transporter. I receive and connect the messages I receive from Spirit and channel it to the receiver. I want people to realize that yes, Islam is a dogmatic religion but there’s a whole spiritual world [within Islam] and it’s no different from any other esoteric school. We are all from the same source. We all pray to the same Supreme Being. We all are made from His essence. And all spiritualists strive towards the same thing, to honor and elevate our souls to emanate His presence. Simply, I want people to connect with their own power center. To realize that we are all made from the same Source and have the same capability to walk in the Divine's light. 

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