Being a Witness: Being in the Neutral-zone
as indicated by the 'Basmallah' and the Holy Quran. By Nadah
 
The 'Basmallah' (b-ism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) is the first phrase of the Quran, it is also the first phrase of almost every Quranic chapter. Traditionally, the 'Basmallah' is said before reading or reciting the sacred scripture, also before intending or starting to perform any action. As a statement of intent, it sums up the essential message of the scripture, like a seed which holds the essence of the whole fruit.
 
Literally, 'b-ism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem' means: in the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful.
 
The attribute of compassionate mercy is expressed by two words, 'ar-rahman' and 'ar-raheem', both deriving from the Arabic word 'rahma' (mercy) and the word-root 'ra-h-m' (womb). 
 
Ar-Rahman refers to expansive, all-encompassing, boundless compassionate mercy that is exclusive to the Supreme Being (Allah), the macro-aspect of compassionate mercy.
 
On the other hand, Ar-Raheem refers to a more individually-attentive compassionate mercy, which applies to human-beings and other creatures. In that sense, it is an expression of the micro-aspect of compassionate mercy. 
 
As an invocation, the 'Basmallah' directs one's focus towards the abstract, transcendent name 'Allah' in its infinite macro-aspect of 'ar-Rahman' and in its more definite micro-aspect of 'ar-Raheem'. Thus calling upon the Beyond to descend into the rahm (womb) realm. 
 
'Al-Fatihah' (the Opening), the first surah-t (chapter() of the Quran, is the basic component of the main ritual prayer and it sums up the essential message of the sacred scripture. Like most Quranic chapters, it starts with the 'Basmallah', after which there is an expression of praise and gratitude to Allah, the nurturer-sustainer of the worlds. 
 
Its first verse parallels the preceding 'Basmallah', by first referring to Allah as absolute transcendence, then to Rab as relative nurturer. 
 
'Rab' meaning 'the one who attentively raises and brings to maturity', describing the relation between creator and creation.  Therefore, reference to 'Allah' in this verse aligns with the macro-aspect of ar-Rahman in the 'Basmallah', while 'Rab' aligns with the micro-aspect of ar-Raheem. 
 
'Al-Fatiha' acknowledges the Divine as the source of support and guidance: "Thee we worship, Thy support we seek". Followed by the request: "guide us to and in the straight path", described as the way of "those who go not astray".
 
By definition, a straight path is one that inclines neither right nor left. It is a path that maintains a central, intermediate and balanced position between two sides or polarities. The nature of that straight path is clarified throughout the Quran, which was revealed over an extended period of time. 
Keeping to the straight path is an essential message that frequently recurs in the Quran.
 
For instance, in surah-t 'Al-Baqarah', it is mentioned that when those lacking in awareness questioned the change in direction of the ritual prayer from Jerusalem to Mekkah, the scripture's response was: "to God belongs both east and west, God guides whom he will to the straight path".
 
Then, the immediately following verse declares: "thus we made of you a justly balanced nation, that you may be witness over the people, and the messenger be a witness over you". A balanced intermediate nation, the middle-way-nation, is one that avoids leaning one way or the other, and refrains from taking sides, maintaining the neutral position of a witness.
 
Traditionally, a witness is one who mediates between disputants. When tension or conflict rises between factions, they would appeal to a witness in order to bring them back to a harmoniously balanced and just position.
 
The path of the middle-way facilitates being in the neutral-zone, by keeping the balance between two sides (polarities) thus aligning with the straight path in order to bring forth the light of truth. This is expressed in surah-t 'An-Noor': "God is the light of the heavens and earth. The parable of this light is as if there were a niche, and within it a lamp, the lamp enclosed in glass, the glass as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is luminous although not touched by a flame. Light upon light, God guides whom He will to His light".
 
The niche is the little shallow recess in the wall in which a lamp is placed high from the ground. The sides of the niche reflect and enhance the lamp's light. Although the glass of the lamp shines like a star when it holds and transmits the light, by itself it is not the source of light. The verse describes the light that emits from the luminescent oil of a mystic olive tree that belongs neither to the east nor to the west. The sacred oil (the essence of the blessed tree) emanates light even when not lit by a flame.
 
This parable is a reference to how luminescence emanates from neutrality, which in physical terms radiates from the innermost center, the centered heart of the niche.
 
Keeping to the centre, to the neutral-zone, to the balancing point between polarities, is also emphasized in surah-t 'Ar-Rahman', where examples of dual energies or polarities are listed while addressing the "two dense beings", interpreted to mean jinn and human-beings.
 
Some of the dualities mentioned are: earth & fire, sun & moon, earth & skies, forelocks & feet, two easts & two wests, two flowing springs, dates & pomegranates, pearls & corals, a pair of gardens, a pair of every fruit, etc...
 
After listing such polarities, the verse mentions God "setting up the balance", in order that the balance may not be transgressed; "so establish justice and fall not short in the balance". 
 
The balance to be observed is not limited to the physical. To maintain the balance is to avoid tipping any side or polarity over the other, it is to maintain a state of neutrality, where one is unidentified with definition or form, thus becoming a centered witness capable of receiving the light of truth.
 
This theme seems to be further represented in surah-t 'Ar-Rahman' by the image of the two seas, or bodies of water (salt & sweet) that meet yet stay separate by an intermediate zone: "which they do not transgress and thus keep the balance".
 
The two seas, or flowing streams of water, are often interpreted as two types of knowledge: exoteric and esoteric, human learning and divine knowing.
The image of the two seas recurs in surah-t 'Al-Kahf' where prophet Moses is reported to tell his attendant: "I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two seas, or until I spend years and years in travel". 
 
The comment on such manifestations of polarity in surah-t-'Ar-Rahman' is: "all (forms of polarity) will perish, and only the face of your Lord will abide forever full of Majesty and Bounty". 
 
This statement that all manifestations of physical polarity are temporary, ephemeral, while 'the face of your Lord' is permanent, everlasting, juxtaposes time-bound polarities with timeless one-ness.  This is further reflected by the divine attributes of 'Jallal' (awe-inspiring majestic presence) as evoked by one-ness, and that of 'Ikram' (ultimate generosity and abundant plentitude) manifesting through multitudes of polarities. 
 
While the 'Basmallah' (b-ism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) calls upon the absolute name of the Divine (ism Allah) in its manifestation of compassionate mercy that descends from the macro into the micro (ar-Rahman ar-Raheem), the concluding verse of surah-t 'Ar-Rahman' calls upon the more relative name of 'your Rab' (ism Rab-ika), in its manifestations of majestic one-ness (Jallal) and bountiful plentitude (Ikram): "Blessed be the name of your Lord, full of majesty and bounty". 
 
On the horizontal plane of physical polarities (right-left, east-west, etc...), the balance is maintained by the Witness, who by being in the neutral zone, aligned with the straight path, unidentified with any polarity, can bring forth the light of truth. Just as the glass of the lamp that shines when it centrally holds and transmits the light. Luminescence radiates through the centered neutrality of the clear impartial heart.
 
On the vertical beam of multi-dimensional polarities (macro vs. micro, above vs. below, etc...), the polarity represented by 'ar-Rahman ar-Raheem' is held in balanced alignment by the name of Allah (ism Allah), which transcends all polarities.
 
The point where the vertical beam meets the horizontal human plane, that point which is the heart of the cross, is that of the Witness, or the Witness-zone, the launching point from which one may make a shift on the ascending spiral of consciousness. It is also the point where definite knowledge tunes into ultimate knowing, where the small view opens up to the big view, where to heal and to be whole becomes possible.
 
Tension and conflict exist where ever polarities manifest. Conflict, as a challenging test of neutrality, seems like a threshold-keeper, a portal-gaurdian that would divert and deplete those unable to centrally hold and transmit the light, those not yet ready to make the shift.
 
*Rewritten by Nadah Zerikly, May 2011
E-mail:
nadazerikly@hotmail.com