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The Paradox of Proximity to the Infinite: An Exploration of sidrat al-muntaha, "the Lote Tree beyond Which None May Pass"

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image of Religion and the Arts

This paper explores the imagery and function of sidrat al-muntaha, the "lote tree of the boundary" encountered by the Prophet Mohammed at the peak of his mystical ascent or mi'raj. Based on descriptions in Qur'an, hadith, and Sufi commentary, the lote tree's symbolic meaning is interpreted as a state of intimacy with God. Epitomizing the themes of boundary-crossing, nearness, and luminous theophany, Mohammed's experience at the lote tree of the boundary recapitulates the Sufi process of fana' fillah—annihilation in God.

Affiliations: 1: Kalliopeia Foundation, San Rafael, California


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